The Calcutta High Court on 28 May granted interim bail to two arrested ministers of the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet, one legislator and another former AITC leader in connection with the Narada bribery case. The bail was granted citing the present pandemic situation in the state.
Pronouncing the judgement, the five-member bench said, “We grant them interim bail with certain conditions and hear the main matter as it will take a week or so. The lockdown in West Bengal has been extended.”
Meanwhile, the CBI has contended saying, if the accused get bail, they can influence the proceedings.
The four politicians accused in the case are two sitting ministers of the Mamata Banerjee government, namely Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, and AITC legislators Madan Mitra and former MLA Sovan Chatterjee.
The sting operation was conducted by one Narada News in West Bengal, showing around 12 then AITC ministers, leaders and an IPS officer were allegedly caught accepting bribes. The stint operations tapes were released in the case to expose the accused persons before the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections.
The Narada sting
The Narada sting operation was conducted by journalist Mathew Samuel of Narada News, a web portal, in 2014 wherein some people resembling AITC ministers, MPs and MLAs were seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of favours.
At that time, the four arrested politicians were ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government. The sting operation was made public ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal.
Progress of case so far
The four leaders were arrested on the morning of 17 May by the CBI, which is investigating the Narada sting tape case on a 2017 order of the Calcutta High Court.
A special CBI court granted interim bail to the four accused on 17 May, but a division bench of the high court, comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee, stayed the decision later that day, following which the leaders were sent to judicial custody.
Differing on the application by the four accused for recall of the stay order, Justice Arijit Banerjee on 21 May favoured granting of bail to the four, while Acting Chief Justice Bindal wanted that they be sent on house arrest.
The division bench then passed an order sending the four accused to house arrest, modifying its earlier order that stayed their bail.
In view of the difference of opinion, the bench decided to refer the matter to a five-judge bench, which took up hearing of the matter on 24 May.
The CBI on 25 May moved a special leave petition (SLP) in connection with the high court’s order of 21 May that modified its earlier order of judicial remand to house arrest of the four, but later withdrew it.
On 27 May, the Calcutta HC bench said it would hear on 28 May the plea by four politicians including two Bengal ministers arrested in the Narada case for recall of an earlier HC order staying their bail.