Kolkata, May 21: The Calcutta High Court on Friday ordered the four senior TMC leaders – two ministers, a former mayor of Kolkata and an MLA – arrested in the Narada Sting Case to be shifted to house arrest from their incarceration in jail. The decision was made by a two-member bench of the HC which included the Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal.
However, there was disagreement within the Bench on the issue of recalling the stay on bail to the four accused and the case has been referred to a five-member bench which includes the Acting Chief Justice.
As part of the conditions of house arrest, Firhad Hakim, the Chairman of Board of Administrators of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, can take part in virtual meetings to monitor anti-COVID-19 operations. However, he will be monitored round-the-clock by CCTV cameras in his residence. A list of visitors to his house will also be monitored as per conditions set by the high court.
Apart from Firhaad Hakim the other four heavyweight leaders are MLA Madan Mitra, Shovan Chattopadhyay and Subrata Mukherjee.
On May 17 the four heavyweight TMC leaders were arrested by the CBI and were produced before a specially designated court at Bankshall Court premises in Kolkata. All the leaders except Hakim were admitted to the state-run SSKM hospital in the plush Woodburn ward where they were supposedly diagonised with multiple ailments .
The CPI(M) had criticised the arrests made at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc across the country and in the state. The party had said that the Central Government had brought up the case after nearly five years of inaction in order to mask their ineptness at handling the pandemic.
The BJP, the main Opposition party in the state has supported the Centre's moves and said that many of its workers cannot live in their houses out of fear of the ruling party at the moment and had to abscond following elections in the state. However, when questioned about why the Lok Sabha speaker has not given the CBI permission to prosecute Suvendu Adhikari and others accused in the case, the party maintained a stoic silence.
After hearing of their arrest the West Bengal Chief Minister took her cavalcade to the CBI office at Nizam Palace in Kolkata and began a dharna there. According to reports she also spoke with DIG (ACB) Kolkata Akhilesh Kumar Singh and is said to have been furious about the incident. According to CBI sources the organisation sought permission of their arrest from the state Governor Jagdeep Dhankar who had complied with their request .
The CBI has argued that in the case of turncoats like Mukul Roy and Adhikari, both MPs at the time, it required the sanction of the Speaker of the Loksabha and the Rajya Sabha's Deputy Chairperson before charge-sheeting them as well.
The agitation led by the CM is said to have delayed the ministers from getting bail in the case, according to senior lawyers.
The Narada tapes, which surfaced in 2016, showed TMC leaders – Firhad Hakim, Mukul Roy (now with the BJP), Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Sultan Ahmed, Subrata Mukherjee, Suvendu Adhikari (now with the BJP), Shovan Chattopadhyay (who joined the BJP and then quit), Aparupa Poddar, Madan Mitra, Iqbal Ahmed, Prasun Banerjee and HMS Mirza – taking bribes from Narada News founder and reporter Mathew Samuel. Samuel, with a fake ID which referred to him as one Santosh Sankaran, fooled them into believing that he was a big-shot businessman willing to set up shop in West Bengal.