The Supreme Court will hear the Central Bureau of Investigation’s pleas against Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar on Tuesday. The CBI accused Kumar of destroying evidence in the Saradha chit fund case and said he had failed to cooperate with the investigation.
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continued her sit-in protest to “save the Constitution” in Kolkata’s Esplanade.
The stand-off between the state and investigation agency began after a CBI team reached the home of “missing” Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar on Sunday evening to question him in connection with two Ponzi scams. Police officials detained five members of the team for around two hours, and central forces reached the state CBI headquarters in Kolkata. Banerjee called the CBI action a “coup” by the Centre and began her protest at 9 pm.
Here is how the drama unfolded through the day:
10.05 pm: In its affidavit in the Supreme Court, the CBI has detailed the evidence against Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, who is accused of destroying evidence. A report in a sealed cover is expected to be filed in the court during tomorrow’s hearing.
10 pm: RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and DMK leader Kanimozhi meet Mamata Banerjee at protest venue, reports ANI.
8.04 pm: Former Trinamool Congress MP Mukul Roy urges Mamata Banerjee to allow the CBI to do its work. Roy, who is now a BJP leader, was questioned in connection with the Saradha chit fund scam in 2015.
“The CBI is an independent agency. It has called people from various parties for questioning at one point of time or the other,” says Roy. “So, those who don’t have anything to hide will comply. It had nothing against me. CBI is investigating according to the order of the SC and Mamata should let it work.”
7.14 pm: The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Brinda Karat calls both Banerjee’s sit-in protest and CBI’s move in chit fund scam “politically motivated”. Karat says her party has been demanding swift punishment to the guilty in Saradha scams.
“But for so many years CBI under BJP was in slow motion,” PTI quotes Karat as saying. “Now its actions are clearly politically motivated as is the ‘drama dharna’ of Mamata Banerjee. The timing is to divert attention from the huge Left rally termed the people’s brigade yesterday in Kolkata.”
6.11 pm: The CBI has filed a contempt petition in the Supreme Court against West Bengal chief secretary, director general of police and Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar. The agency has claimed that Kumar has been destroying evidence, News18 reports. The agency says it is working under hostile environment in the state.
5.53 pm: Samajwadi Party national vice president Kiranmoy Nanda joins Banerjee at the protest site in Kolkata. Nanda says the BJP itself is ridden with corruption.
“The Supreme Court order [asking the CBI to probe the ponzi scheme sam] came in 2014,” IANS quotes Nanda as saying. “Now it is 2019. The elections are around the corner...This is a conspiracy.”
Nanda says the “biggest scamsters” are Amit Shah and Narendra Modi.
5.49 pm: Banerjee praises police officials for working in stressful conditions. “A policeman who has worked for his entire life, if he is not given respect, we will not accept it,” she says at the police event.
The chief minister claims she was angry when the chair of Kolkata police commissioner was “insulted”. “I am ready to give my life but I will not compromise. I did not take to the streets when you touched Trinamool leaders,” she says.
5.27 pm: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Kanimozhi backs Banerjee’s protest. “Anyone who cares for democracy, federalism and constitution must stand with Banerjee,” she tweets.
5.01 pm: Banerjee attends an event for state police officers at the protest site. Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar is also present at the venue.
4.46 pm: Rebel BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha accuses the Modi-led government of “playing with fire” with the General Elections coming up. “Sirji, what is happening?” he asks in a tweet. “Why are we playing with fire through the much-maligned, disgraced and condemned government institutions, that too when elections are around the corner?” Sinha also praises Banerjee, calling her a “tried and tested mass leader with impeccable image”.
4.28 pm: Union Minister Babul Supriyo demands imposition of President’s rule in West Bengal and accused Mamata Banerjee of aligning with those indulging in corruption. “The TMC government and Mamata Banerjee have blatantly attacked a reputed institution of law enforcement- the CBI to save their aide, Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar. Absolute lawlessness,” he says on Twitter.
4.25 pm: The BJP claims Trinamool Congress workers vandalised the party’s office in Bhawanipore and Kolkata. “Mamata represents the Bhawanipore constituency. Law and order has completely collapsed! No one is safe under TMC,” the BJP’s Bengal unit says on Twitter.
4.11 pm: Prasad cites Rahul Gandhi’s statement made on May 8, 2014, saying “Rs 20 lakh people lost their money in chit fund scam in West Bengal”. “Narada, Sarada scams happened before the BJP took to power in 2014, the Supreme Court ordered a CBI investigation too before the BJP came to power..and the petitioners in this matter were supporters of the Congress and Left,” Prasad says.
He also says in the scams, Madan Mitra, who was a minister in the Trinamool Congress government, was arrested. Another minister Sudip Bandhopadhyay was also jailed, and two other MPs were also arrested, he adds.
“Mamata Banerjee did not protest or comment when they were arrested,” the minister says. “Why did she sit in protest when the police commissioner is being investigated.”
4.07 pm: “It is important to be recalled today that some Leftist supporters and some Congress supporters had gone to the Supreme Court for a CBI investigation, and the court on May 9, 2014, had directed that entire Ponzi schemes – Narada, Sarada, Rose Valley – be investigated by the CBI,” Prasad said.
The court had also asked to investigate the money trail and look into the regulatory bodies’ role in this, he added.
3.55 pm: Prasad says the Opposition parties coming together is a “coalition of the corrupt to save each other”.
3.53 pm: Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asks why the Kolkata Police Commissioner was sitting on dharna with politicians. “Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal started the trend of sitting on dharnas and Mamata Banerjee is continuing it,” Prasad tells reporters at a press conference. “Police commissioner sitting on dharna with along with politicians is unprecedented.”
3.40 pm: The Calcutta High Court refuses to give immediate hearing on the government’s plea against the CBI’s attempt to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with chit fund scam cases.
3.23 pm: The Biju Janata Dal says the institutional integrity of the CBI has to be restored. “We are a mature democracy and professionalism should be maintained,” Odisha’s ruling party says in a statement.
Even in Odisha, the CBI had acted suddenly just before the panchayat elections in the state, the party claims. “Now, before the general elections, the move smacks of unprofessional conduct and is coloured with political motives,” it says.
But, the Biju Janata Dal adds that its statement is in connection with Odisha and “overall issues confronting CBI at national level”. “Grouping BJD with some political parties because of this statement is incorrect and misleading,” it adds, according to ANI.
3.14 pm: Banerjee says her sit-in protest will continue till February 8. The state board examinations are scheduled to begin from February 12 and microphones and speakers are banned from usage in the state four days ahead of the examination, The Hindu reports.
3.11 pm: Uttar Pradesh minister Sidharth Nath Singh says Banerjee has “crossed all her previous wrongdoings”.
3.07 pm: Banerjee holds a state meeting at a temporary enclosure on the pavement to pass the budget, reports the Hindustan Times.
3.05 pm: Banerjee thanks all political parties and state governments that have extended support to the sit-in protest. “Law will take its own course. If anyone disrespects it, there is no value to the pillars of democracy,” News18 quotes Banerjee as saying.
The Trinamool Congress chief claims if anyone opposes the BJP, central agencies are sent after them and they are termed anti-national.
2.49 pm: Javadekar continues to criticise Banerjee. Opposition party activists in West Bengal are being killed and being stopped from taking out ralles, he claims. “Choppers of Amit Shah, Yogi Adityanath and Smriti Irani were not allowed to land. Is this democracy? Is this not an emergency? She is abusing the Modi government,” says Javadekar.
2.45 pm: Banerjee alleges that the Modi government has snatched “farmers’ sleep”. Nearly 12,000 farmers have committed suicide in the country, the West Bengal chief minister claims.
2.43 pm: A confidential report prepared by West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has been sent to Ministry of Home Affairs, ANI reports. The governor’s report was prepared by combining the report of the Special Investigation Branch and reports of the state chief secretary and home secretary, PTI quotes unidentified officials as saying.
2.35 pm: Protests break out in various parts of the state, including Howrah, Hooghly, Purulia, Birbhum, North 24 Paraganas, The Hindu reports. Effigies of Modi and Amit Shah were burnt. Trinamool Congress workers block train movement Hooghly and Howrah districts, while in Bankura, they block the national highway.
2.14 pm: Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin says he supported Banerjee in her “fight to save democracy”. “The independence of every institution has been compromised under this fascist BJP government,” he says on Twitter.
1.48 pm: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, when asked for his reaction to the standoff, says the CBI and the government in question will explain the situation. “These things can only be explained by people who are doing it. I don’t react to such things,” he says. “Until the Election Commission announces the date of elections, anything can happen in the country.”
Kumar’s Janata Dal (United) and the BJP will together fight the Lok Sabha elections in Bihar, along with the Lok Janshakti Party.
1.40 pm: Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti says the manner in which constitutional institutions are being misused to settle scores with opponents is “unfortunate”.
“We stand with Mamata ji,” she says. “If institutions continue to being discredited like this, the federal structure will be fractured.”
1.33 pm: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy says the Centre’s alleged misuse of constitutional institutions does not bode well for the future.
“I think the central government must behave properly and take state governments into confidence,” says the Janata Dal (Secular) leader. “How the government is behaving with opposition leaders is disastrous.”
1.30 pm: The Gorkha Janmukti Morcha also extends support to Mamata Banerjee.
1.25 pm: Naidu accuses the Narendra Modi-led government of conspiring to usurp the powers of the state. “They are completely damaging the Centre-state relations,” he says.
1.20 pm: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu claims that the Centre’s action against Banerjee was motivated by the “great success” of the United India rally in Kolkata on January 19, according to PTI.
“Cases against those who surrender to the BJP are being lifted,” says the Telugu Desam Party chief. “They are digging out old cases against those who oppose the BJP. The recent Kolkata rally was successful, hence the vengeance against Mamata Banerjee.”
Naidu has been vocal about the need to create an anti-BJP front ahead of the Lok Sabha elections.
1.15 pm: Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says that a BJP delegation earlier met officials of the Election Commission in Delhi and informed them about the law and order situation in the state.
“In the interest of wanting free and fair environment in which the Lok Sabha polls can be conducted, we have come to bring to the notice of the EC certain happenings in West Bengal which has complete cooperation of the Trinamool Congress,” she says. “The instances we highlighted point out that the Trinamool doesn’t believe in democracy.”
The BJP delegation also included Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Bhupendra Yadav.
Last week, the BJP had requested the Election Commission to declare West Bengal a “critical and vulnerable state”. It had also demanded that only central observers be appointed at all booths to ensure free and fair polling.
1.10 pm: Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, among the first Opposition leaders to extend support to Mamata Banerjee on Sunday, says the central government’s action in West Bengal was “very dangerous, against the Constitution and democracy”.
“Every state has an elected govt, if the Prime Ministers sends the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate like this and try to scare the officers, then this country will not be safe,” says the Aam Aadmi Party leader.
1.06 pm: West Bengal Intelligence Bureau Additional Director Manoj Lal meets Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi at Raj Bhavan in Kolkata.
“The fact that paramilitary forces had to be deployed for the protection of those officers, who were diligently doing their duty, is for the first time an unprecedented view given to the citizen with regards to the state of anarchy in West Bengal,” says Irani.
Scroll.in’s Shoaib Daniyal explains the politics behind the Mamata Banerjee-CBI standoff.
12.55 pm: Banerjee, who started her dharna on Sunday night, held phone conversations with several political leaders who called her to extend their support. From time to time during the night, she interacted with Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim and Minister of North Bengal Affairs Arup Biswas, according to the Hindustan Times.
Banerjee on Sunday night urged her supporters to return home. A few dozen policemen remained at the venue to ensure security.
12.49 pm: Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri alleges that those posing the biggest threat to democracy are on a ‘dharna’ to protect it, in a reference to Banerjee’s sit-in demonstration in Kolkata.
12.45 pm: Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut says it will soon become clear if this is a fight between the CBI and Mamata Banerjee or between her and the BJP.
“If the chief minister of a big state as West Bengal is sitting on dharna, then it is a serious matter,” says Raut. “If the CBI is being misused, it’s a matter of dignity of the nation and prestige of the agency.”
12.42 pm: Biju Janata Dal leader Sasmit Patra says the CBI’s action was “unprofessional” and politically motivated, ANI reports. “We are a mature democracy and professionalism should be maintained,” he says.
12.36 pm: Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who spoke in the Lok Sabha earlier, says the CBI-Kolkata Police face-off was an “unfortunate” incident. Stopping the CBI from performing its duty was an “unprecedented” move, he claims.
“The incident in Kolkata is a threat to the federal political system of the country,” says Singh. “The Centre has the power to maintain normalcy in any part of the country.”
12.33 pm: Mamata Banerjee says the protest is not “political” in nature. She has reportedly urged protesters to not burn effigies of PM Narendra Modi at the venue. “It’s not a political programme. But all political parties can join us in our protest,” she says.
12.32 pm: Trinamool Congress activists have organised rallies and sit-in demonstrations in various parts of the state to protest against the central government, PTI reports. The agitators also stopped train movement in Howrah and Hooghly districts and put up blockades on the national highway in Bankura district.
12.29 pm: The Lok Sabha has been adjourned till 2 pm after an uproar by Opposition parties over the situation in West Bengal, according to ANI.
12.27 pm: There has been a complete constitutional breakdown in West Bengal, alleges Prakash Javadekar.
12.26 pm: The Opposition continues chanting “CBI chor [thief] hai” as Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh speaks in Lok Sabha. Singh says the CBI team decided to take action against Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Verma after the Supreme Court ordered an investigation into the Saradha chit fund case.
“The police commissioner was summoned many times, but he did not appear,” says Singh. He adds that West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi has summoned the chief secretary and the director general of police and has asked them to take immediate action to resolve the situation.
12.22 pm: Prakash Javadekar continues his attack on Banerjee and says West Bengal is in a state of emergency. “Mamata ji has imposed an emergency in Bengal,” he alleges. “Not us [BJP].”
12.16 pm: Lok Sabha proceedings resume after an adjournment till noon, Opposition leaders chant “CBI tota hai” (CBI is a parrot).
12.15 pm: Javadekar alleges that the Opposition parties supporting Mamata Banerjee were corrupt. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar: “Who are these people? They are out on bail,” he says. “Such people are standing together. This is not mahagathbandhan, they are divided by vision and united by corruption. The corrupt are standing together.”
12.10 pm: Union minister Prakash Javadekar says the incident in Kolkata was one of a kind and decribes it as a “murder of democracy”, ANI reports.
“Never before was an investigating team taken into custody by police,” he says at a press conference. “We want to ask Mamata Banerjee why she is staging a dharna, who does she want to shield? The police commissioner or herself?”
12.05 pm: The Home Ministry seeks a report from the West Bengal government on the role of IPS officers on allegations of obstructing investigation and the violation of Service Conduct Rules, reports The Indian Express.
11.45 am: Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav says the BJP and the central government have started misusing the CBI as elections are approaching, reports ANI. “There was CBI row, Centre was scared of a CBI director, now they are trying to scare everyone using CBI,” says Yadav. “Who has misused the institutions? If someone has politicised the institutions, it is BJP.”
11.39 am: National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah says Mamata Banerjee’s allegations against the Centre are right, reports ANI. “This country is in danger as it’s becoming dictatorial,” says Abdullah. “They (Centre) are not masters of this country, people are.”
11.28 am: Both Houses of Parliament adjourn minutes after proceedings begin on Monday after Opposition parties protest against the row between the CBI and the West Bengal Police.
11.24 am: Samajwadi Party leader Kiranmoy Nanda meets Mamata Banerjee during her dharna in Kolkata, reports ANI.
11.20 am: West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi asks Chief Secretary Malay De and Director General of Police Virendra Kumar to come to his residence to address the stand-off, reports Hindustan Times.
Unidentified officials say Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Tripathi to discuss the situation, reports PTI.
10.58 am: Supreme Court says CBI is permitted to bring material on record to support its claim that Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar is trying to destroy evidence, reports ANI.
10.48 am: Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi lists the matter for Tuesday morning, reports Bar and Bench. “If Kolkata Police Commissioner even remotely thinks of destroying evidence, bring the material before this Court,” says Gogoi, according to ANI. “We will come down so heavily on him that he will regret.”
10.45 am: Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien says Opposition parties will meet the Election Commission today, reports ANI. “We have to save the Constitution, the country and the federal structure,” he says.
10.43 am: The CBI says Kumar should surrender immediately. “Our team was arrested and kept in alleged custody,” Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is representing CBI, tells the Supreme Court.
10.39 am: The CBI tells the Supreme Court that Kumar was summoned multiple times and he failed to cooperate in the inquiry, reports ANI.
10.35 am: Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar meets Mamata Banerjee at the venue of her sit-in protest, reports ANI.
10.32 am: The CBI moves the Supreme Court seeking directions to Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to cooperate with the investigation in the Saradha chit fund case, reports ANI.
The agency moved two applications in the court – one accusing Kumar of destroying evidence related to the case and another accusing him of indulging in contempt of court, reports PTI.
10.30 am: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu says a discussion will be held with Opposition leaders in Delhi on Monday and draft an action plan on a nation-wide movement, reports ANI. Naidu says his party MPs protest along with other Opposition leaders.
9.45 am: Mamata Banerjee says Opposition parties have signed a memorandum and it will be submitted to the Election Commission, reports ANI.
9.25 am: Here are the developments so far since Sunday morning.
- Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, who had headed the special investigation team that looked into two chit fund scams, was summoned by the CBI on February 1. He has not been seen in public since then. The CBI, which took over the investigation in 2014, had sought documents and files from Kumar.
- On Sunday morning, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee extended her support to Kumar, calling him “one of the best officers” and said he was on leave just for a day.
- On Sunday evening, a team of CBI officials arrived at Rajeev Kumar’s home in Kolkata to question him, but the city police detained them. The CBI team was let off after around two hours of questioning.
- Interim CBI Director M Nageswara Rao said there was evidence against Kumar and claimed he had been “instrumental” in causing destruction of evidence. Rishi Kumar Shukla took over charge from Rao on Monday.
- Banerjee addressed a press conference and claimed that the CBI action was “political vendetta”.
- By 9 pm on Sunday, Banerjee had started a sit-in protest against the CBI’s move and accused Prime Minister Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah of trying to organise a “coup” in the state.
- Several Opposition leaders have extended their support to Mamata Banerjee, claiming the Centre was using the CBI as a “political tool”.
- The CBI is now set to move the Supreme Court against the West Bengal Police on Monday.
- Mamata Banerjee continued her sit-in protest in Kolkata on Monday morning, and called it a “satyagraha”. She said she would continue till the “country is saved”.
8.56 am: Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu condemns the CBI action in Kolkata. He says it is a “glaring example” of how Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah are “destroying institutions”.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar says the CBI is being misused to “intimidate the opposition and settle political scores”.
8.52 am: National Conference leader Omar Abdullah says the “use of the CBI as a political tool has crossed all limits as has the Modi government’s misuse of institutions”.
Peoples Democratic Party chief Mehbooba Mufti says it is “disheartening to see how institutions are being hijacked only to discredit political opponents”. “History stands testament to how JK has faced the wrath of central agencies,” she says.
8.50 am: Opposition leaders like MK Stalin, Omar Abdullah, Mehbooba Mufti, N Chandrababu Naidu and Sharad Pawar have expressed solidarity with Mamata Banerjee.
“The independence of every institution has been compromised under this fascist BJP Government,” says MK Stalin, chief of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
8.47 am: Mamata Banerjee’s sit-in protest in Kolkata enters the second day.
8.40 am: Maharashtra Navnirman Sena backs Banerjee. “We applaud and support the stand taken by Mamta Banerjee against the autocracy and tyranny of the Central government,” says MNS chief Raj Thackeray. “The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena firmly stands behind her and the fight against this tyranny.”
8.37 am: Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy extends support to Mamata Banerjee. “What happened in West Bengal is an attack on a state’s federal rights guaranteed by our constitution.”
8.33 am: CBI interim director Nageswara Rao says the agency will move the Supreme Court on Monday as the West Bengal Police is not cooperating.
8.28 am: Former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda said the situation in West Bengal was similar to that of days during the Emergency. “The country has faced similar kind of unconstitutional methods during the Emergency.”
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he had spoken to Banerjee and expressed solidarity.
8.25 am: Congress President Rahul Gandhi extended his party’s support to Banerjee. “The happenings in Bengal are a part of the unrelenting attack on India’s institutions by Mr Modi & the BJP,” he said. “The entire opposition will stand together & defeat these fascist forces.”
8.22 am: Banerjee began a “Save the Constitution” protest in Kolkata on Sunday night. She accused the BJP of “torturing” West Bengal.
She said National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was giving directions to the CBI on instructions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and accused Modi and BJP President Amit Shah of trying to organise a “coup” in the state.
8.15 am: On Sunday, the Kolkata Police detained a team of CBI officials who had arrived at Kumar’s residence to question him in connection with the Rose Valley and Saradha ponzi scams. The CBI team was let off after around two hours of questioning.
Interim CBI chief M Nageswara Rao said there was evidence against Kumar and claimed he had been “instrumental” in causing destruction of evidence.
8.12 am: The CBI has sought documents and files from Kumar. He, however, has not responded to to notices asking him to produce the documents.
8.10 am: Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, who has not been seen in public since the CBI summoned him on February 1, headed a special investigation team that looked into the Rose Valley and Saradha ponzi scams before the central agency took over in 2014 on the Supreme Court’s orders.
7.45 am: On Monday, Banerjee said she will continue the protest till the country and the Constitution are “saved”. She skipped meals and stayed awake the entire night on a makeshift dais, surrounded by a few senior ministers and party members.
“This is a satyagraha and I’ll continue till the country is saved,” she said.
7.40 am: Banerjee on Sunday received support from several Opposition leaders, including former Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
7.30 am: Following the high-level face-off, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee started a “dharna” in central Kolkata. She accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah of trying to organise a coup in the state, and said the CBI action was politically vindictive. She also alleged that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was giving directions to the CBI on instructions from Modi.
Banerjee backed Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, claiming he was “among the best in the world”, and that the BJP, which rules at the Centre, was “spreading lies” about him. Banerjee said he is “working 24x7, and was on leave for only one day recently”.