Narada case hearing to continue in Calcutta HC on Friday

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(Eds: Rpt after correcting spelling in headline) Kolkata, May 27 (PTI) The Calcutta High Court on Thursday adjourned till Friday hearing in the Narada sting tape case, in which two senior West Bengal ministers, an MLA and a former Kolkata mayor were arrested by the CBI.

All the four accused - ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, Trinamool Congress MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor Sovan Chatterjee - are currently under house arrest as per the high court's order.

A five-judge bench said that on Friday, it will first hear the recall applications by the four on the stay granted by a division bench on bail to them.

It will then hear the CBI's prayer for transfer of the case to itself alleging mob pressure on the Special CBI court that granted bail to the four politicians on May 17, hours after their arrest.

During the day, the bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and justices I P Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee heard submissions by the Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta representing the CBI and senior counsels appearing for the accused persons.

During the hearing that continued for two hours, Mehta submitted that the proceedings before the special CBI court be nullified, claiming that the process was affected by a dharna by the state's chief minister at the CBI office and the presence of the state law minister on the premises of the court which heard the bail applications by the four.

Appearing for the accused, senior counsels Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Sidharth Luthra and Kalyan Banerjee prayed that the recalling applications be heard, maintaining that it concerns the liberty of those arrested.

The CBI had on Tuesday moved a special leave petition (SLP) in connection with the high court's order of May 21 that modified its earlier order of judicial remand to house arrest of the four, but later withdrew it.

The four leaders were arrested on the morning of May 17 by the CBI, which is investigating the Narada sting tape case on a 2017 order of the Calcutta High Court.

A special CBI court had granted interim bail to the four accused on May 17, 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 May 21 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 May 24.

The Narada sting operation was conducted by journalist Mathew Samuel of Narada News, a web portal, in 2014 wherein some people resembling TMC 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. PTI AMR NN NN NN NN

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