CBI seeks judicial remand for arrested leaders in Narada case

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Kolkata, May 17 (PTI) The CBI on Monday prayed before a special court for judicial remand of two West Bengal ministers, a TMC MLA and a former minister arrested by the agency in connection with the Narada sting tape case.

Hearing in the matter before the court of Judge Anupam Mukherjee was concluded and the order is expected later in the evening.

Senior ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former minister Sovan Chatterjee were produced before the special CBI court through the virtual mode.

The four were kept at the CBI office at Nizam Palace following their arrest in the morning.

The CBI counsel placed the chargesheet in the case before the court.

The CBI claimed that the four arrested leaders were ministers in West Bengal when the alleged illegal gratification from the sting operator took place in 2014.

Praying for 14 days' judicial remand of the four, the CBI counsel submitted before the court that all the four arrested are very influential persons and the investigation process will be hampered if they are released on bail at this stage.

He also claimed that evidence may be tampered with and witnesses in the case may be influenced by the accused persons, of whom two are ministers, one is MLA and the fourth is a former minister.

Appearing for Mukherjee, Hakim and Mitra, senior advocate Kalyan Banerjee, and Chatterjee's counsel Sudipta Maitra submitted that they have cooperated with the investigation all along and as such there is no requirement for their custody at this stage, when the chargesheet in the case has already been submitted.

He further submitted that Hakim, the former mayor of Kolkata, is the head of the board of administrators running the Kolkata Municipal Corporation and his remaining in custody will seriously jeopardise COVID-19 management of the city.

Banerjee also questioned the governor's authority to accord sanction to prosecute the four leaders.

The governor had on May 7 sanctioned the prosecution of Hakim, Mukherjee, Mitra and Chatterjee on a request by the CBI on the ground that all of them were holding positions of ministers in the state at the time of the alleged commission of the crime.

The Narada sting tapes, which were made public before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal, were claimed to have been shot in 2014, wherein people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were allegedly seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of promised favours.

The sting was conducted by Mathew Samuel of Narada News portal.

The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the matter in March, 2017.

The CBI had registered cases against 12 TMC leaders, many of whom are now in BJP, and an IPS officer. PTI AMR SOM SOM

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