In a major blow to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled that the Kolkata Police Commissioner will have to cooperate with the CBI in the Saradha ponzi scam porobe.
The apex court ordered the police commissioner to appear before the CBI and fully cooperate with the investigative agency. However, the court also made it clear that no coercive steps, including arrest of Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar, will be taken by the CBI.
The apex court directed that Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar will have to appear before CBI at Shillong for investigation. The court fixed Feb 20 as the next date of hearing in this case.
The Supreme Court also directed West Bengal chief secretary, DGP, Kolkata Police commissioner to file replies on contempt pleas moved by CBI against them. Replies in contempt petition filed by CBI has to be placed by West Bengal chief secretary, DGP on or before Feb 18, the SC bench said.
Mamata Banerjee, however, hailed the SC order as her "moral victory" and alleged that the CBI-Kolkata police commissioner tussle was nothing but political vendetta.
On behalf of the CBI, Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal opened the argument alleging destruction of evidence in the chitfund scam case.
The Kolkata Police has provided doctored call data records, the AG said. He also said Kolkata Police Commissioner was heading the SIT set up by the West Bengal government to probe the case.
The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to give an urgent hearing to CBI's plea alleging destruction of electronic evidence related to the Saradha chit fund scam case by the Kolkata Police commissioner and said it will come down heavily on him if he "even remotely" tries to destroy the evidence.
The applications accusing Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar of destroying evidence related to the case and indulging in contempt of court were mentioned by Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjeev Khanna.
CBI vs Mamata Banerjee-HIGHLIGHTS:
12:11 pm: Union Min RS Prasad: This order was given by SC to investigate the conspiracy angle & also money laundering angle. This investigation must be done in a fair manner. Let's not politicise it. This is a great moral victory for CBI
11:55 pm: I am not pleading for Rajeev Kumar, I am pleading for millions of people of this country: Mamata Banerjee
11:40 pm: The govt is settling scores with opposition after interfering in autonomous bodies. We are fighting against those elements. It is not about an individual, an officer or a party, we are fighting against govt's attempt to discredit autonomous bodies: Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge
11:27 am: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on SC will direct the Police Commissioner, Kolkata to make himself available&fully cooperate: Rajeev Kumar never said he'll not be available. He said we want to meet at mutual place,if you want to ask for any clarification, you can come & we can sit
11:25 am: Rajya Sabha adjourned till 2 PM following uproar by opposition parties over CBI-Kolkata Police row
11:23 am: Nalin Kohli, BJP leader on contempt plea: It has also been made clear by SC in its order that personal appearance, after filing of replies, of concerned officers may be required&it'll be communicated by Secy General of SC on 19 Feb, if such appearance is required on 20
11:18 am: West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee on SC order that no coercive steps would be taken against Rajeev Kumar: It’s a moral victory. We have great respect for judiciary and all institutions. We are so grateful. We're so obliged
11:17 am: Nalin Kohli, senior lawyer & BJP leader: CJI bench ordered that Rajeev Kumar would make himself available in the light of prayer of the application of CBI to join the investigation, make himself available & cooperate fully. The SC pointed out that no coercive steps would be taken
11:11 am: Right now, no decision on ending sit-in: Mamata Banerjee
11:09 am: I fully respects the SC's order: Mamata Banerjee
11:07 am: Will not take any decision in haste: Mamata Banerjee
11:05 am: Will comment only after seeing the court's order: Mamata Banerjee
11:05 am: Next day of hearing is February 20
11:04 am: The Police Commissioner of Kolkata Rajeev Kumar will appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in Shillong, Meghalaya as a neutral place
11:03 am: Hearing in SC on West Bengal CBI matter: Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for WB govt says "It's an attempt to humiliate&score point.What’s the great urgency? For 5 yrs there was no FIR. There is not a single FIR against Rajeev Kumar under 201 (Destruction of evidence) of the IPC
11:01 am: Hearing in West Bengal CBI matter: Supreme Court issues notice to Commissioner Of Police Kolkata, DGP and West Bengal govt on contempt plea
10:58 am: Hearing in SC on West Bengal CBI matter: We will direct the Police Commissioner to make himself available and fully cooperate. We will deal with contempt petition later, observed CJI
10:54 am: Hearing in SC on West Bengal CBI matter: Attorney General KK Venugopal pleads before the Supreme Court to initiate contempt of court proceedings against the alleged contemnors
10:53 am: West Bengal CBI matter: Yesterday Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar had filed petition in Kolkata HC seeking interim relief. Today court postponed the case as the matter between WB Police & CBI is sub-judice in SC. Next hearing on Thursday, 7 Feb
10:48 am: Affidavit also states,return of crucial evidence to main accused by the SIT, despite regular monitoring by HC, clearly show connivance of SIT to a larger conspiracy wherein local authorities obstructed probe&attempted to destroy evidence prior to transfer of the case to CBI by SC
10:45 am: CBI affidavit says investigation was being done by SIT&crucial evidence such as laptops, mobile phones etc were handed over to the main accused in Saradha scam case by the investigating officer of WB police working under direct supervision of Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar
10:40 am: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu will be going to West Bengal today to meet WB CM Mamata Banerjee
10:35 am: CBI files affidavit in the Supreme Court alleging there are several incriminating material/correspondence that was collected during the investigation by the CBI against the senior police officials as well as senior politicians.
The bench declined the SG's plea to hear the two applications on Monday in the post-lunch session. It said during the interregnum it will be open for the SG or any other party to lay before the court any material or evidence to show that any West Bengal authority or police official is planning or trying to destroy evidence related to the case.
Taking strong note of Mehta's submission, the bench said "if the police commissioner is even remotely trying to destroy evidence, we will come down so heavily on him that he will regret". The top court said all material or evidence and additional documents has to be placed before it by means of affidavit.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been sitting on a dharna since 8.30pm Sunday. On Monday she described her sit-in over the CBI's attempt to question Kolkata Police chief as a "non-political" protest.
At the outset, the SG said an "extraordinary situation" which has happened yesterday in which CBI officials were arrested in Kolkata and Jt Director, CBI and his family were kept hostage. He said it was under this "extraordinary situation" that the CBI moved these applications apprhending destruction of electronic evidence.
He alleged that on Sunday night CBI officers were taken into custody by the West Bengal Police when they had gone to the Kolkata police commissioner's residence for evidence in connection with the probe in the Saradha scam.
Mehta said not only were the sleuths arrested, but the residence of Joint Director (East) Pankaj Shrivastav was surrounded by the state police and his family was kept hostage. Even the CBI office at the CGO complex in Kolkata was under siege, the law officer said.
When the SG was making the submissions, the bench asked him what was the position on Monday morning to which he replied that senior CBI officials have been released.
The joint director through teleconference told media channels about his house being laid under siege and the family being virtual hostage, the SG said.
He said there was a need for immediate order as the Kolkata Police commissioner, who has come under the lens of the CBI, is likely to destroy the electronic evidence and material related to the Saradha scam.
Mehta said that initially there was a discussion among the concerned officials in the CBI to moved the apex court last night itself but it was decided to wait till Monday morning.
The Commissioner of Police, Kolkata had not responded to the CBI's repeated summons to join the investigation and "when our team reached to his residence, they were arrested," he said.
When the bench said the CBI officials are no longer under the arrest, the SG replied that on a daily basis FIRs are being registered by the state police against the agency's officials.
Mehta told the court that the agency had filed two interim applications. The first application seeks a direction from the apex court that the Kolkata Police chief should immediately surrender and should not tamper or destroy any evidence, he said.
The second application is about the contempt of court committed by the police commissioner as there was an apex court order to carry out the investigation into the case, Mehta said.
However, the bench said it will hear the matter on Tuesday morning. After getting the indication that the apex court was not going to hear the matter Monday, the SG again said it was a case of an "extraordinary situation as the police commissioner is sitting on dharna with a political party."
"Please take cognisance that people in uniform are sitting on dharna with a political party and hear the matter at 2 pm. The evidence which is in the electronic form will be destroyed," said the solicitor general.
Taking note of his submissions the bench said, "if at all the evidence is destroyed, it is in electronic form and can be retrieved. "
The bench also said it has gone through the contempt application and there is nothing in it and there is nothing about destruction of evidence and that's why the bench has sat five minutes late. However, the solicitor general clarified that "when we drafted the interim applications yesterday, we did not had our records. It was under the seige of police. We got the records today only."
At this moment, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for the West Bengal government tried to make some submissions opposing the CBI plea saying that a political witch-hunt is going on and this matter is going on for long.
"I (Kolkata Police Commissioner) am not an accused. The Calcutta High Court has passed an order in my favour," he said.
However, the bench interrupted him and passed the order.
Meanwhile, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Monday said no one has any concern for the country and that political parties are only concerned about the votes ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
"Desh ki chinta kisi ko nahi hai. Rajnitik dalon ko kewal vote ki chinta hai," Nitish Kumar told the media in Hindi when asked about West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's dharna in protest against the CBI in Kolkata.
Refusing to say anything on Banerjee's dharna against the CBI action, Kumar said now the case is in the Supreme Court and only court can say anything.
However, he said one or two months ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha elections 2019, many such developments would take place in the country. "Look forward to many more in the coming days."
Meanwhile, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and DMK Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi arrived in Kolkata on Monday evening to show solidarity with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in her sit-in demonstration and accused the Narendra Modi government at the centre of misusing the central agencies to intimidate opposition leaders.
Expressing strong support towards Banerjee's strong anti-BJP stand, Tejashwi Yadav, also the former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister, said all the opposition leaders should take such steps to save the nation and bring an end to the saffron outfit's oppression.
"Everyone knows how strong Mamata Banerjee is. So BJP's strategy is to scare her, intimidate her. I congratulate Banerjee for the strong steps she has taken. If we want to save our country, then all the leaders must take such strong steps. Otherwise they (BJP) will try to oppress everybody," he said while standing beside Banerjee on the dais.
WATCH VIDEO: Kolkata Police-CBI face-off: Supreme Court to hear CBI plea against Kolkata Police chief today