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Saradha case: SC dismisses Rajeev Kumar’s plea

  • Rajeev Kumar had sought an extension of an order granting protection from arrest in the Saradha chit fund scam case
  • The Supreme Court said the petition was not maintainable in the court and directed Kumar to approach the appropriate courts in West Bengal

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed former Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s plea seeking an extension of an order granting protection from arrest in the Saradha chit fund scam case.

A Supreme Court Bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra and comprising newly-minted Justices Surya Kant and B R Gavai said the petition was not maintainable in the court and directed Kumar to approach the appropriate courts in West Bengal.

Advocate Sunil Fernandes, appearing for Kumar, argued that courts in West Bengal were not functioning.

"The gentleman knows the law better than other young lawyers, the courts are functioning only the lawyers are on strike," said Justice Mishra, adding that litigants have been approaching the courts in the state to seek relief and Kumar knowing the law can definitely approach the appropriate court.

In a fresh plea filed on Thursday, Kumar contended that if he was arrested it would not only tarnish his reputation but also adversely impact his impeccable service record. Also, that the arrest will lead to his automatic suspension from government services. He alleged that “CBI officers are certainly working under some kind of illegal diktats and instructions to target him".

On 17 May, the top court vacated its order granting protection from arrest to Kumar in the Saradha chit fund scam case. The apex court had,

however, said that its 5 February order granting interim protection to Kumar will continue for seven days ending Friday. The top court had also allowed Kumar to seek bail from a competent court in the seven days awarded.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had left it open for the CBI to act in "accordance with law" but clarified that the present order does not accept or reject the request for "custodial interrogation or grant of protection."

On 20 May, Kumar cited a strike of lawyers in West Bengal as the main reason for approaching the apex court seeking an extension of protection. Since the order pronounced on 17 May was passed by a three-judge bench, a two-judge bench was unable to modify it, in line with legal provisions.

Hence, the SC vacation bench comprising of Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna had directed Kumar to approach the secretary general of Supreme Court with a request for urgent before a three-judge bench.

The CBI, in its plea filed on 5 April, had sought permission for custodial interrogation of Kumar, who earlier headed the West Bengal police special investigation team (SIT) probing the chit fund scam, over his alleged role in destroying evidence in the case.

The probe agency had alleged that there was prima facie evidence against Kumar trying to “destroy or tamper with evidence and shield high and mighty" in the case. The agency had pleaded for withdrawal of the February 5 order which stated that "no coercive action" would be taken against Rajeev Kumar. The order also directed Kumar to cooperate with the CBI in the probe. The CBI in their plea had claimed that Kumar also failed to disclose crucial information he was privy to.

On 3 February, a CBI team was detained by Kolkata Police when it reached Kumar’s residence to question him. It was followed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s visit to the officer’s home. The CBI officers were taken to a police station and later released.

The Saradha chit fund scam erupted in 2013 when investors demonstrated in front of the Trinamool Congress office demanding the government take action against the group’s officials for defaulting on payments. In April 2013, the chairman of the group that ran the “ponzi scheme", Sudipta Sen and the company’s executive director Debjani Mukherjee, were arrested from Jammu & Kashmir after a few days’ of chase.

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