TMC leaders held by CBI to remain in custody as hearing in Calcutta HC remains inconclusive
TMC leaders Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee filed a recall plea in Calcutta HC against its order staying grant of bail to them. The hearing will continue on Thursday
The four All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders arrested by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Narada sting case will continue to remain in custody for now after the hearing before the Calcutta High Court in the matter remained inconclusive and spilled over to Thursday.
The hearing before the Bench of acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee will continue at 2 pm on Thursday, Bar & Bench reported.
Appearing for the CBI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed any recall of the High Court's stay on bail granted to the four accused.
"If this order of High Court is vacated, it will mean that all the orchestrated attempts to frustrate justice succeeded," he argued.
Mehta also sought time to file response to the recall application.
On the other side, Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Siddharth Luthra and advocate Kalyan Bandhopadhyay argued for a recall of the High Court's stay order.
After the Bench queried if the matter could be adjourned for the day, Senior Advocate Singhvi urged that the four be granted interim bail.
"Two are in hospital. Where can they run away? They will be subject to Your Lordships jurisdiction. It is a request", Singhvi said.
Supporting the submission, Senior Advocate Luthra argued that the accused have already been interrogated.
"Police custody is sought for investigation. Their chargesheet says investigation (is) over but they want judicial custody. If investigation is over why do they need custody? ... They did not arrest us for 4 years. Then they file chargesheet. Where is the occasion to arrest us when investigation is over?" he asked.
"I have practiced in trial courts. In such cases of injustice there is outpouring of emotions," Luthra added.
Advocate Kalyan Bandhopadhyay pointed out that the CBI had sought sanction in the matter from Governor in January 2021.
"Now when CM resigns after elections, sanction is granted. Governor kept request for sanction pending for 5 months. Why?" Bandhopadhyay queried.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted that though an allegation of law and order has been raised by the CBI, the state of West Bengal has not been served on the issue.
Solicitor General Mehta responded that the CBI will serve notice, although the transfer plea is between the CBI and the accused.
During the hearing, the court raised eyebrows over the protests by ministers and TMC supporters outside the CBI office and special CBI court on May 17. The contention of the CBI was that it created an atmosphere in which justice dispensation was impeded.
"There is no remotest suggestion that the (lower court) judge was overawed", responded Senior Advocate Singhvi.
"Should judge record that he was intimidated?" acting Chief Justice Bindal asked.
"Recording is one word. There is not even a hint or suggestion", Singhvi responded.
"These protests do you think the judge was not prevented from discharging the duty? The CM remaining in CBI (office) for 5 to 6 hours was not systemic?" acting Chief Justice Bindal remarked in turn.
"The judge heard matter and passed an order where there is no mention at all of these", Singhvi asserted, adding, "Can this court stay bail on the ground that minister was protesting in CBI office?"
This prompted the acting Chief Justice to query, "Have we heard of Law Minister going to court (to protest)?"
"How can presence of MLA impede justice dispensation especially when hearing is virtual?" Singhvi responded.
He further argued that there was an outpour of emotion when the four TMC leaders were arrested by the CBI on Monday. However, this does not mean that the justice dispensation system was impeded, Singhvi argued.
"How can you explain Chief Minister present for 6 hours?" the acting Chief Justice queried again.
"How can it be not protest if the person is not there for few hours? It is Gandhian way of protest … Did the judge even know the Minister was there. There were lot of people there. It was natural", Singhvi submitted.
The acting Chief Justice disagreed, observing, "It is not natural."
"What happened was peaceful Gandhian protests by Chief Minister, Law Minister and colleague ministers. They exhorted people not to be violent", Singhvi argued further.
"So these legal issues can be settled in street?" the acting Chief Justice remarked.
"The fact that an issue is in court does not mean there cannot be protests as long as they are democratic," Singhvi responded.
The hearing will continue tomorrow.
The four TMC leaders, Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee were arrested on the morning of May 17.
A special CBI court had granted them interim bail on the same evening but the CBI filed a plea transfer petition before the Calcutta High Court seeking transfer of the case from the court dealing with the matter.
The CBI cited threat to the probe agency on the ground that TMC leader and West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee and others were sitting in dharna outside the agency's office. It was also highlighted that the state Law Minister and others had protested outside the special court impeding justice dispensation and creating an intimidating atmosphere.
The High Court had then in a late night sitting cancelled the bail the very same day, i.e May 17.
The accused then filed a recall application seeking recall of the May 17 order.
Both the CBI's transfer plea and recall application by the accused were taken up for hearing on Wednesday.