WB illegal coal mining case: SC says private firm director be not arrest till Apr 6

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New Delhi, Mar 25 (PTI) The Supreme Court Thursday ordered that a private firm director, accused in a case in which the issue of CBI’s jurisdiction to investigate in West Bengal after the withdrawal of consent by the state in 2018 has cropped up, shall not be arrested till April 6.

The apex court said this while hearing the plea filed by Anup Majee, the director of the company engaged in purchase and sale of dry fuel, who is accused in a case of alleged illegal coal trading in the Asansol-Raniganj belt of West Bengal.

“The petitioner shall not be arrested until April 6. This order has been passed without going into the merit of the case. We clarify that this order will not restrain the investigation,” a bench headed by Justice D Y Chandrachud said.

The bench, also comprising Justices M R Shah and Sanjiv Khanna, directed that Majee shall cooperate in the probe in the case.

The bench, while noting that the top court will be in recess next week and it would not be possible to conclude hearing in the matter, posted the plea for further hearing on April 6.

The apex court had on February 22 agreed to hear the plea challenging the Calcutta High Court order which allowed the CBI to investigate the case of alleged illegal mining and transportation of coal in West Bengal without the state's consent.

The plea has claimed that the CBI lacked jurisdiction to lodge an FIR in the case after the withdrawal of general consent by the state government in 2018.

Later, the CBI had filed its counter affidavit in the matter and said it did not require prior consent from the West Bengal government to conduct probe in the case, as the purported offence had taken place within the 'railway areas'.

The probe agency had said that alleged offence in the case has admittedly taken place within ‘railway areas’ which forms the “exclusive domain” of the CBI to investigate upon.

“Therefore, in view of the above and keeping in mind that facts and circumstances of the present case, it is clear that not only can the present respondent (CBI) conduct investigation in ‘railway areas’ without the prior consent of the state government but, such power in furtherance of the investigation, transcends to other areas beyond the ‘railway areas’, within the territorial jurisdiction of the state of West Bengal,” the affidavit had said.

West Bengal government had earlier contended that since consent to the CBI to carry out any probe in the state was withdrawn on November 16, 2018, no investigation for offences committed within its territorial jurisdiction can be conducted by the central agency.

On February 12, a division bench of the High Court had stayed a single bench order that had restricted a CBI investigation into alleged illegal mining and transportation of coal to just “railway areas” of the state and rejected the plea of Majee for grant of protection from any coercive action against him.

On February 3, the single judge bench of the high court had said that CBI is not authorised to conduct physical raids or active investigation into areas of West Bengal other than the railway areas as defined under the Railways Act.

It had, however, said that the Central probe agency can summon and interrogate witnesses residing in the state, even in places other than railway areas for the purpose of investigation.

The CBI on November 28 last year carried out a massive search operation in a number of locations in four states -- West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh - after registering a case. PTI MNL ABA SA