Kolkata: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested four Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, including two sitting ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government and a legislator, in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation case.
Those arrested include ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee.
All four leaders were ministers in the then TMC government in 2014 when the sting operation was conducted.
The sting operation was conducted by Narada news founder Mathew Samuel for over two years. Ahead of the 2016 assembly elections, Narada news released videos showing them among 13 TMC ministers and leaders allegedly accepting bribes in return of favours, or misusing official positions.
The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the sting operation in March 2017.
CBI officials visited the houses of these leaders in the morning and brought them for questioning at its office in Kolkata’s Nizam Palace.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had earlier this month given prosecution sanction to the CBI against the four leaders, a move that empowered the central agency to file a chargesheet against all four.
“I was arrested by the CBI in connection with the Narada sting operation case. I was arrested without any prior notice. I will challenge my arrest in court (sic),” Hakim, West Bengal’s urban development and municipal affairs minister, a new channel quoted him as having said.
They have been arrested under Section 120b of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 7, and 13(1)(a) and 13(1)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“The CBI did not intimate us (about the arrests). If they have been arrested, it is illegal. The prior permission of the speaker of the legislative assembly is required for it, but it was not taken. This is undemocratic,” West Bengal Legislative Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee was quoted as saying by a national daily.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it has nothing to do with the arrests. “We have nothing to say. BJP has nothing to do with this,” party spokesperson Samik Bhattacharjee said.
Meanwhile, tension prevailed in Kolkata with Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee along with TMC supporters holding a dharna infornt of the CBI office, saying that the Central agency will have to arrest here too.
“This is politically motivated. The party which lost the polls is now using the CBI to arrest MLAs and ministers,” TMC Lok Sabha MP Sougata Roy said.
Hitting out at the saffron party over the arrests, TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh asked, “Why was an FIR not lodged against Mukul Roy who is now the national vice-president of the BJP? Roy had taken money from former IPS officer Mirza. Also, why has Suvendu Adhikari, who is now the leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly, not been arrested? He was also seen taking money in the tapes.”
Ghosh added, “That’s because they have joined the BJP and got protection. This is nothing but a revenge tactic by the BJP as they lost the Assembly polls.”