Big jolt to CM Mamata Banerjee in Narada sting case

New Delhi: The Narada sting tape case on Tuesday (June 22) took a new twist as the Supreme Court judge, Justice Aniruddha Bose, recused himself from hearing appeals of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and state law minister Moloy Ghatak. The plea was related to their role on the day of arrest of four TMC leaders by the CBI in the sting case.

According to reports, as soon as a vacation bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and Bose assembled to commence the day’s proceedings, Justice Gupta said his brother judge is recusing himself from hearing the appeals in the Narada sting case.

Presiding over the SC bench, Justice Gupta said the issue would be now placed before Chief Justice N V Ramana who may take the decision and the pleas may be listed for hearing during the day itself.

The Supreme Court was scheduled to hear three appeals including that of the state government challenging the Calcutta high court’s denial for filing of affidavits by her and the state Law Minister in their role on the day of arrest of four Trinamool Congress leaders on May 17 by the central agency in the case.

The TMC leaders allegedly played a key role in stopping the CBI from performing its legal duty after arresting four leaders in the case.

Initially, the state government and the law minister had moved the top court with their appeals and later the chief minister filed her plea against the June 9 order of the high court. The top court on June 18 had requested the high court to hear the case a day after the apex court considered the appeals of the state government and Ghatak against the order.

Hearing the CBI’s application for transfer of the Narada sting tape case from the special CBI court to the high court, a five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court on June 9 had said that it will decide later on considering the affidavits by Banerjee and Ghatak on their respective roles on the day of the arrest of four leaders in connection with the case.

Senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi and Vikas Singh, appearing for Ghatak and the state government, had said it was necessary to bring on record of the high court the affidavits as they deal with the roles of the persons concerned on May 17.

The law minister was attending the cabinet meeting and was not in the court premises at the time of hearing, Dwivedi had said, adding that even the CBI officials were not there on the spot as the lawyer for the agency addressed the court virtually.

The high court, which on June 9 decided to consider later the affidavits of Banerjee and Ghatak, was urged by the Solicitor General that the affidavits cannot be accepted on the ground of delay as they were filed after the completion of his arguments.

The CBI, which has filed an application seeking transfer of the Narada sting tape case from the special CBI court to the high court, has made the chief minister and the law minister parties in its plea there.

It had claimed that while the chief minister had sat on a dharna at the CBI office in Kolkata soon after the arrest of the four accused, Ghatak had been present at the Banshall Court premises during the virtual hearing of the case before the special CBI court there on May 17.

Ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor of Kolkata Sovan Chatterjee were arrested by the CBI which is investigating the Narada sting tape case on a 2017 order of the high court.

The five-judge bench, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and justices I P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee, had adjourned the hearing in the matter. The bench had granted interim bail on May 28 to the four accused.

The special CBI court had granted them bail on May 17 itself, but the order was stayed by the high court, which remanded them to judicial custody.

In 2014, The Narada sting operation was conducted by journalist Mathew Samuel of Narada News, a web portal. Some people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of favours.

The sting operation was made public ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal.