- All of them were arrested by the CBI earlier this week
- The court also referred their bail hearing to a larger three-member bench
- CBI had opposed the house arrest order and sought its stay
The Calcutta High Court on Friday said two Bengal ministers – among four politicians arrested by the CBI earlier this week in connection with the Narada bribery case – will be placed under house arrest while a larger (three-member) bench rules on their interim bail plea.
The court passed this order after a difference of opinion split the current bench – acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal ordered house arrest but Justice Arijit Banerjee ordered interim bail.
“One of the members of the bench thought it fit to grant interim bail. The other member did not agree. So this point of interim bail has to be considered by the larger bench. In the meantime, considering pandemic situation, house arrest given,” Justice Banerjee said.
The CBI and the ruling Trinamool both opposed the house arrest order.
Appearing for the central agency Solicitor General Tushar Mehta asked the court to stay its order.
Senior advocates Abhishek Singhvi and Sidharth Luthra pressed for interim bail for their clients and asked that the larger bench be constituted as soon as possible, preferably today.
They argued that house arrest, the order for which they said had been passed mid-way through the hearing, meant their plea had been effectively rejected.
“House arrest is no less than arrest. They should be released,” Mr Singhvi said, asking that the leaders be released on interim bail till the matter is heard by the larger bench.
“Interim situation should be freedom. These are ministers, MLAs… There is no possibility of flight risk. There has been no slightest allegation of them not cooperating with investigation,” he added.
The four politicians – ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra and former Trinamool member Sovan Chatterjee – were arrested Monday morning from their residences in connection with the Narada bribery case being investigated by the CBI on the High Court’s order.
A furious Mamata Banerjee raced to the CBI’s Kolkata office and spent the next six hours daring investigators to arrest her too.
The High Court Monday night stayed a lower court decision to grant bail.
In 2014, Mathew Samuel – a journalist with the Narada news portal – posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal and gave wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as bribe and taped the entire operation.
The Calcutta High Court ordered the CBI probe in March 2017. Since then the CBI has registered cases against 12 Trinamool leaders, many of whom are now in the BJP, and an IPS officer.
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