Home >politics >policy >Former TMC Rajya Sabha MP Kunal Ghosh gets bail

Kolkata: The Calcutta high court on Wednesday granted interim bail to Kunal Ghosh, former Rajya Sabha MP of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), who has spent over 34 months in detention as a prime accused in cases against the now-defunct Saradha Group for running Ponzi schemes.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the scam for the past two-and-a-half years, opposed Ghosh’s bail petition but a division bench of the Calcutta high court allowed the journalist-turned-politician to walk free. Last year, Ghosh’s bail application was twice rejected by the same court.

With Ghosh, six accused in the Saradha scam have been granted bail including former West Bengal minister Madan Mitra, who was released last month. Eight continue to be in CBI custody, including group chairman Sudipta Sen.

CBI came under fire in court on Wednesday for not being able to launch proceedings even after two-and-a-half years of investigation. Rejecting justifications for the delay from CBI lawyer, judges Ashim Kumar Roy and Malay Marut Banerjee said Ghosh couldn’t be kept in detention any longer because it was against his Constitutional rights.

Ghosh’s lawyer Ayan Chakraborty alleged that the CBI has not been able to make any headway into the case in the past two years. A key CBI officer, however, said the agency had given the court a list of 17 new findings in the case since taking Ghosh into its custody, but the judges chose to ignore them. This officer asked not to be identified.

The bail is an embarrassment for the CBI, which admitted in court that it wasn’t still clear when it will conclude the investigation. Ghosh’s bail is to be reviewed by the same judges in about a month and, if upheld, at least two others in CBI detention could seek bail on the same grounds, according to lawyers.

Biplab Goswami, a lawyer for Matang Sinh and Manoranjana Sinh, said they too could now seek bail on the same grounds as Ghosh. The estranged couple is alleged to have received illegitimate payments from Sen for selling a television channel.

Ghosh was arrested in November 2013 by the Kolkata Police, which was at that time investigating one of eastern India’s biggest frauds. The Saradha Group is estimated to have fraudulently received an estimated Rs2,000-2,500 crore in deposits from millions of people in West Bengal. It ran aground in 2013 without repaying depositors.

CBI got involved in early 2014 after the Supreme Court ordered the Kolkata Police to give up the investigation. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) also joined the probe to look into possible money laundering and other foreign exchange violations. The CBI took Ghosh into its custody from the Kolkata Police in September 2014.

Though the two agencies have seized some properties from the Saradha Group, they have not been able to make any significant cash recovery.

The Calcutta high court said Ghosh will not be allowed to step out of his neighbourhood —or the jurisdiction of the Narkeldanga police station under the Kolkata Police. He was instructed to deposit his passport with the CBI and make himself available for questioning at least once a week.

Ghosh’s interim bail, which will remain in force till 11 November, will be reviewed by the same court on 2 November.

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