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Mamata vs CBI: Saradha scam probe shouldn't be politicised

File photo: Kolkata’s ex-police chief Rajeev Kumar with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Photograph:( IANS )

Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, India Feb 06, 2019, 12.42 PM (IST) Written By: Lalit Shastri

The national debate that is now raging over CBI's foiled attempt to interrogate the Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the Saradha scam and how the CBI team was obstructed from carrying out the investigation in this matter, besides the direct involvement of state chief minister Mamata Banerjee, should lead to its logical end and nothing short of steps that would ensure credibility, authority and full autonomy of the country's apex investigating agency.

Saradha was like any fraud Ponzi scheme. It had used a consortium of companies and utilised the services of agents to raise a staggering Rs 2,500 crore from small investors by promising them huge returns before it collapsed about five years ago.

The CBI charges against the Kolkata Police chief, in connection with the Saradha Chit fund cases, are very serious. He has been accused of destroying, destructing and tampering with the primary evidence. CBI submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court on Tuesday accusing Kumar of conniving with the accused and the potentially accused persons and subverting the investigation process.

The Supreme Court has restrained the CBI from arresting and taking coercive steps against the Kolkata Police Commissioner, who has been asked to appear for investigation before the CBI at Shillong, treating it as a neutral point. Responding to a petition by the CBI, the Apex Court has also issued a notice seeking a response from the West Bengal government, the state chief secretary, DGP and Kumar by February 18. The case has been scheduled for the next hearing in the Supreme Court on February 20.

Mamata Banerjee's no-holds-barred tirade against the Centre, the allegations and counter-allegations that are flying high on the CBI-Saradha chit fund cases and the way the entire matter has been politicised ahead of the parliamentary election, exposes the leaders cutting across party lines who are determined to extract the maximum political mileage from a huge multi-crore scam that in the normal course should have been allowed to be dealt with under the law without any political interference.

After the Supreme Court restrained the CBI from arresting the Kolkata Police Commissioner on Tuesday, the West Bengal Chief Minister called off her dharna and at the same time asked the Prime Minister to resign and return to Gujarat.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, who was in Puralia around the same time, went at Mamata Banerjee hammer and tongs. Lashing out at the West Bengal Chief Minister he said that nothing could be more shameful in a democracy than a chief minister sitting on protest (to block investigation by the CBI).

In recent years, CBI’s image and credibility has gone for a nosedive. The war between former CBI director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana has already rattled the image of the CBI and it will take a long time to rebuild it. The genesis of this war can be traced to 2017 when notice was issued under Section 160 of CrPC to the Kolkata Police Commissioner by the CBI in the Saradha chit fund cases that were being supervised by him.

It is noteworthy that after Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal too had recently withdrawn the permission given by the state governments to the CBI to investigate offences in their jurisdiction. In October 2012, even the Madhya Pradesh government, then under BJP rule with UPA 2 in power at the Centre, had issued an extraordinary gazette notification which says: “In supersession of all previous notifications and letters issued by the Government of Madhya Pradesh… in pursuance of Section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act 1946 (25 of 1946),  the Delhi Special Police Establishment will have no powers or jurisdiction over the IAS, IPS and IFS officers borne on Madhya Pradesh cadre and serving under the government of Madhya Pradesh at the time of commission of the alleged offences or their investigation" in respect of offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, attempts, abetments and conspiracies in respect of any one or more of the above mentioned offences and any other offence or offences committed during similar transaction arising out of similar acts.”

Given the entire situation, it is important to give the CBI more teeth and autonomy. For this objective, the prime investigating agency should be brought under a new Act that should be passed by Parliament.  For an improved dispensation, the Parliament should create a Constitutional authority for investigation with an independent cadre that should be free from government control or interference. A fool-proof regulatory mechanism also can be created to maintain CBI’s credibility.   

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)

Lalit Shastri

Lalit Shastri is an Indian journalist, editor, environmentalist and a wildlife film maker

Story highlights

The CBI charges against the Kolkata Police chief, in connection with the Saradha Chit fund cases, are very serious.