New Delhi/Kolkata: The Supreme Court on Thursday dismissed a plea by the West Bengal government seeking the apex court’s monitoring of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Saradha chit fund scam.
The court said it had no room to monitor the investigation “at present" on a day West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Srinjoy Bose quit the party and resigned from the upper house.
A bench of justices T.S. Thakur and C. Nagappan said that it could only monitor the investigation if there were allegations of neglect by the CBI and not due to allegations of “selective leaking" of sensitive information by CBI officials, something that according to the court only “remains in the realm of accusations".
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the state government, alleged that various news reports predicting the course of the investigation clearly indicated that CBI officials were leaking details to the media, vitiating the entire investigation.
The issue of leaks was also raised by the Trinamool Congress, which alleged that they were “hurting a political party" and leading to a “media trial".
The party was seeking to be made a part of the hearings in the case but the court dismissed its application, urging it to not make the court a “political arena".
Solicitor-general Ranjit Kumar, appearing for the CBI, said that there had been no selective leaks and the CBI was doing everything possible to proceed with the matter. A deputy inspector-general of the CBI also clarified that CBI officials are not authorised to interact with the media and all references in media reports to anonymous CBI sources were just attempts by the authors to lend credibility to their reports.
In a minor relief for the Trinamool Congress, the contempt petitions against the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the state railway minister for obstructing the CBI probe were also dismissed since the CBI itself had not complained to the apex court.
The apex court has also allowed the state police to pursue cases where investigation had been completed by it and chargesheets filed. These cases had been stalled after the apex court’s order that transferred all the cases to the CBI. The CBI had decided not to investigate these matters further clearing the way for the state police to take them further.
Finding the CBI’s refusal to investigate certain cases citing lack of manpower, infrastructure and logistical support “unacceptable", the apex court asked the premier investigating agency to seek a modification of its 19 January order which had transferred the investigation of all the cases relating to the chit fund scam to the CBI. The solicitor general clarified that the CBI had taken over 65 cases covering 242 first information reports relating to non-Saradha Group companies.
The CBI took over the probe from state agencies last year after an apex court direction on 9 May. This order also found that the Saradha group had collected approximately 2,459 crore through fraudulent schemes ranging from those for land allotment and flat allotment to travel and tours.
Three of the Trinamool Congress’ party members, including two MPs, have already been arrested by the CBI.
In a related development, a day after he was released on bail, Bose on Thursday said he was quitting the party and resigning from the Rajya Sabha with immediate effect.
“Politics is not my cup of tea," Bose, 38, said in a media statement, adding that the days he spent in jail led to a change of heart and he was yielding to his mother and wife’s demand that he quit politics.
Bose spent 75 days in CBI custody, following his arrest in November by the federal agency for his alleged links with the now defunct Saradha Group.
“It is Srinjoy’s personal choice," said Derek O’Brien, a spokesperson for the Trinamool Congress and a Rajya Sabha MP. Bose’s decision to quit could be the result of the pressure the Bharatiya Janata Party put on him, he added.
It was alleged that Bose, using his political clout, had forced the Saradha Group to enter into a deal with Bose’s Bengali newspaper for its television channel. Bose was arrested on charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy.
Though most other political leaders alleged to have been involved have not been granted bail, Bose was released because the CBI couldn’t produce a chargesheet within 60 days of custody.
Shreeja Sen in New Delhi contributed to this story.