Arrest of TMC leaders by CBI, armed with Governor’s ‘permission’, smacks of vendetta politics by BJP
To arrest a legislator, Speaker’s assent is necessary. But CBI took Governor’s ‘permission’ before new Assembly was constituted, though Speaker continues to hold office till a new Speaker is elected
Kolkattans woke up on Monday morning and learnt that two ministers, Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, former minister Madan Mitra and a former minister and former mayor of Kolkata, Sobhan Chattopadhyaya, had been arrested by the CBI in connection with a sting operation carried out by one Mathew Samuel around 2014 in which some politicians were allegedly seen taking bribe.
Though law and order is a state subject, the CBI effected the arrests with the help of the CISF, keeping the state government and the state police in the dark. The CISF surrounded not only the ministers’ homes but encircled the entire area as if mounting an operation against dangerous outlaws.
As the news of the arrests spread like wild fire across the city and the state, angry TMC supporters besieged the Raj Bhavan and the Nizam Palace where the CBI office is .located. West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankar reacted by saying that if “lawlessness” continued, there would be “serious consequences”, hinting at but stopping short of actually using the words “President’s Rule.”
An angry Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the Nizam Palace and started a dharna demanding that she be arrested along with her ministerial colleagues. She was in the Nizam Palace for close to six hours.
Meanwhile, sordid details of the circumstances in which the CBI obtained permission to arrest the ministers came to light. To arrest a legislator, the permission of the Speaker is necessary. But the CBI indulged in trickery. Before the new Legislative Assembly was constituted, the CBI took the permission of the Governor to effect the arrests.
The Governor maintained that as he was the “appointing authority” of the ministers, he had the right to give permission for the arrests. This was immediately challenged by the Speaker, Biman Bandyopadhyaya, who quoted Article 179 of the Constitution, which states that even if the Assembly is dissolved, the Speaker continues to hold his office till a new Speaker is elected.
The common man saw things for what they were. The Governor was a willing instrument in the hands of the Modi-Shah duo who wanted to take ‘revenge’ against the people of West Bengal for inflicting a humiliating defeat on the BJP in last month’s polls.
As TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy put it, the duo who boasted of “capturing” West Bengal by winning 200 seats was actually “given two hundred goals” by the TMC which won 200 plus seats. The case against the ministers was nothing but a political vendetta, pure and simple, he said.
The CBI “virtually” produced the arrested leaders in the city’s Bankshall Court and demanded, first, their police custody and then their judicial custody. The lawyers for the accused pointed out that the CBI had completed the investigations and had submitted the charge-sheet. After this, there was no need for the CBI to seek their custody – whether police or judicial.
The CBI countered this with the stock argument that those arrested were “influential” people and if released, they could intimidate witnesses and tamper with evidence. The lawyers for the accused pointed out to the court that the accused had been free all these years and the CBI had never complained that they were either intimidating witnesses or tampering with evidence
The court went on to grant bail to the arrested leaders.
The CBI then made a lightning move and approached the Calcutta High Court, which stayed the lower court’s bail order and sent the accused to three days’ judicial custody till Wednesday.
What the TMC and the people of the state in general are angry about is that Firhad Hakim was in charge of the COVID control operations. At a time when the pandemic is spreading fast and more and more people are being infected, his arrest will only severely disrupt the battle against COVID.
It is quite likely that the Modi-Amit Shah duo will continue their ‘jihad’ against the Trinamool government in West Bengal. Both are vindictive and they have a loyal accomplice in Kolkata Raj Bhavan. They seem to be bent on dismissing the elected government headed by Mamata Banerjee by any means and bring the state under their control through President’s Rule.
A long battle lies ahead for the people of West Bengal. They have to fight the fascist forces that care tuppence for the sanctity of the Constitution or the values of democracy and secularism that it enshrines. Secularism, in particular, is anathema to the BJP and its parent organization, the RSS, whose goal is to transform India into a ‘Hindu Rashtra’.
In four years’ time, the RSS will observe the centenary of its foundation. It hopes the Modi government will return to power again in the 2024 general elections and there will be no obstacle to India being declared as a Hindu Rashtra.
The battle against the BJP is not just electoral, but political-ideological as well.
(Views are personal)