state news

Narada sting operation: SC dismisses West Bengal government’s plea, refuses to stay CBI probe

The apex court also extended the agency’s 72-hour deadline to a month to complete its preliminary inquiry.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday quashed a petition by the West Bengal government, which had challenged a Calcutta High Court order calling for the Central Bureau of Investigation to look into the Narada sting operation case. Calling the plea “unfortunate”, the top court asked the government’s advocate to apologise and said the CBI will continue with the investigation, reported NDTV.

The Mamata Banerjee government had moved the apex court on Monday, seeking a stay on the Calcutta High Court’s March 17 order. The state government, in its petition, called the court directive “erroneous” and “contrary to law”.

The Supreme Court rejected two other petitions filed by state minister Sugata Roy and senior Trinamool Congress leader Suvendu Adhikary. The two had challenged the high court order and sought a Supreme Court- or high court-monitored inquiry by a Special Investigation Team. In response, the bench said it may consider asking the high court to monitor the CBI investigation, reported The Times of India.

The apex court also extended the 72-hour deadline given to the CBI to complete its preliminary inquiry into the case. While the agency now has a month to submit its report, it completed its preliminary compliance report on Monday, reported The Indian Express. Investigators had seized all equipment used in the sting operation on Saturday.

The report is believed to have been shared with the CBI’s head office in Delhi. “Depending on the result of the inquiry, the CBI shall forthwith register an FIR in respect of all the alleged crimes, and proceed to investigate the same,” the court had said.

In January, the Calcutta Hight Court had indicated that it might hand over the case to an independent central agency. The probe was being handled by the state police till then. The state government has held that the court’s March 17 order was passed “in haste”, even though the West Bengal police was doing its job.

In March last year, not long before the West Bengal elections, Narada News had released videos that purportedly showed several TMC leaders accepting cash in return for favours. The Lok Sabha’s Ethics Committee had sought an explanation from the five TMC legislators seen in the clips. In April 2016, the high court had set up a three-member committee to keep evidence from the Narada News investigation “in safe custody”.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had alleged that the sting operation was a conspiracy against her government and party members. She had claimed that it was meant to hurt her party’s image before the polls. In June, she had ordered a Kolkata Police inquiry into the case.

The ruling party in the state has been embroiled in one controversy or the other in the recent past. The CBI probe into the case comes only weeks after two TMC legislators were arrested in connection with a chit fund scam. Banerjee has held that the arrests were a result of political vendetta by the Narendra Modi government because of her party’s stand against the Centre’s demonetisation move.

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