The Calcutta High Court on Friday granted interim bail to all the four Bengal politicians – including two ministers from Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress – arrested by the CBI in connection with the Narada bribery case. The bail was granted to them citing the lockdown in West Bengal.
“We will grant them (TMC leaders) interim bail with certain conditions and hear the main matter (CBI’s prayer for transfer of the case outside the state) as it will take a week or so,” the five-member bench said.
The High Court granted interim bail on a personal bond of Rs. 2 lakh with conditions including that the leaders should not give media interviews on this case and should cooperate with the investigation.
During the hearing, the CBI had contended all the four were influential leaders and could threaten witnesses. “These leaders are influential to influence the proceedings. This will send a wrong message. It will have an adverse impact on the society. We urge that court should not grant them interim bail now,” Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, representing the CBI, told the court.
All the four accused – ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor Sovan Chatterjee – are currently under house arrest as per the High Court’s order.
The four politicians were arrested last week from their residences in Kolkata.
The arrests sparked massive protests, with Mamata Banerjee, who has been made party to the case, camping outside the CBI’s Kolkata office and daring investigators to arrest her too.
The Trinamool has questioned the timing of these arrests, which came days after Ms Banerjee’s victory in the April-May elections that devolved into a battle with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The party has also questioned the decision to not prosecute former leaders Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy who are now with the BJP.
The Narada case involves a 2014 sting operation by a journalist who posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal. He gave wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as bribe and taped the entire exchange.
The tapes were released just before the 2016 assembly elections in the state.