Civil Procedure Code (CPC)

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Key Takeaways

● Mathew Samuel carried out the Narada sting operation, which targeted high-ranking officials and politicians from the All India Trinamool Congress (AITC). It showed numerous politicians and high-ranking cop accepting cash bribes in exchange for giving a corporation unofficial benefits.

● It was performed in 2014 for the Indian news magazine Tehelka, and months before the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections, it was published on a private website.

● The case is now being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Enforcement Directorate (ED), and a parliamentary ethics committee as of June 2017.

● The Trinamool Congress has denied the charges, claiming that the funds were returned.

● The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) was forced to abandon its appeal against two Calcutta High Court decisions in the Narada fraud case after the Supreme Court asked probing questions about it on Tuesday.


Introduction

In the Narada bribery case, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has arrested Ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chattopadhyay. They were, however, released on bail.

The move comes just days after Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar granted the CBI permission to file a charge sheet against the four defendants and sanctioned their prosecution.

When the Narada sting operation purportedly showed them taking money, they were all state ministers. The tapes were made public in advance of the 2016 state Assembly elections. In March 2017, the Calcutta High Court ordered a CBI investigation into the sting operation.


What Is The Narada Case

The Narada sting operation case involved a series of sting operations carried out by Narada News in West Bengal to expose the government of Mamata Banerjee's "corrupt" ministers. The sting lasted two years and was supposed to be featured in Tehelka magazine at the time.

The case concerns the sting operation known as the "Narada tapes," which was filmed in 2014 by the Narada news portal and purportedly shows TMC leaders accepting bribes on camera. The sting was supposed to be published in Tehelka magazine after a two-year period of investigation.

Journalist Matthew Samuel, who later left Tehelka and started his own TV channel in West Bengal, pretended to be a businessman looking to invest in the state and offered cash as a bribe to twelve TMC leaders, including seven MPs, four ministers, and one MLA, as well as a police officer.


When Was The Footage Released

The sting operation was made public just before the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections, and it showed 12 TMC ministers and leaders accepting payments in exchange for favours. This was a big setback for the party, which already had ministers involved in the multi-billion-dollar Saradha chit-fund scam.


People Involved In The Case

The sting operators set up a fake company and approached numerous ministers, asking for favours in exchange for money. Mukul Roy, Subrata Mukherjee, Sultan Ahmed, Sugata Roy, Suvendhu Adhikari, Kakoli Ghosh Dastikar, Prasoon Banerjee, Suvon Chatterjee, Madan Mitra, Iqbal Ahmed, and Farhad Hakim are the ministers or leaders accused of collecting bribes on camera. MH Ahmed Mirza, a senior police officer who claimed to be the party's main fundraiser, was also spotted taking money.


Narada Case In 2017

Despite widespread criticism and fury from the public and rival parties, the Trinamool Congress won the Assembly elections. However, on March 17, 2017, the Calcutta High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary investigation into the sting operation case. It also instructed the CBI to file a criminal complaint against those engaged in the matter if necessary.

K. D. Singh, a TMC Rajya Sabha MP and majority owner of Tehelka was aware of and funded the entire operation, Samuel alleged. According to Samuel, the operation's budget was initially set at $2,500,000 but was later boosted to $8,000,000. Singh, on the other hand, denied any involvement in the sting.

Samuel was charged under numerous sections of the IPC, including 469 (forgery to destroy reputation), 500 (defamation), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy), and others. On August 5, 2016, the High Court issued an ad infinitum stay of the state inquiry, stating that the police cannot conduct a parallel investigation while a court-monitored investigation is ongoing.

A parallel inquiry was being conducted by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). It had filed a lawsuit under the Anti-Corruption Act alleging theft of public funds and has issued repeated summonses to the accused and Samuel.

The CBI filed a First Information Report against 12 Trinamool leaders for "criminal conspiracy" on April 17, 2017. The CBI then summoned all of the people engaged in the case to help with the investigation. All of them were booked under Section 120 B of IPC (criminal conspiracy), Section 13 (2), 13 (1D) and Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Initially, the ruling Trinamool Congress denied any involvement with the sting operation, claiming that it was the result of a political conspiracy and that the films were manufactured. Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, described it as a smear campaign by the opposition motivated by revenge politics. The TMC later stated that the money received was a contribution. The Communist Party of India (CPIM) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staged enormous protests asking that the politicians engaged in the scandal quit.


Current Situation Of The Case

● On May 9, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar approved the prosecution of Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra, and Sovan Chatterjee, following a request by the CBI.

● They were later granted bail but were kept on house arrest.

● On May 19, a Calcutta High Court division bench, led by acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee, issued a split decision on the CBI's appeal against a trial court ruling granting bail to four TMC politicians arrested in the Narada bribery case: cabinet ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, sitting MLA Madan Mitra, and former minister Sovan Chatterjee.

● TMC leaders slammed the arrests, accusing the CBI of conducting selective arrests in order to serve their "political masters in the Union cabinet."

● While Justice Bindal denied the leaders bail and placed them under house arrest, Justice Banerjee granted them bail.

● Because there was a disagreement, the case was referred to a bigger bench for further review. On May 21, both courts agreed that the leaders should be held on house arrest until the matter was resolved.

● Meanwhile, the CBI filed an appeal against the 19 May split verdict as well as the unanimous judgement on the leaders' home arrest on May 21.

● The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed an appeal with the Supreme Court against a May 21 judgement by the Calcutta High Court order that the four TMC leaders implicated in the Narada case be kept under house arrest for the time being rather than being held in judicial custody. The CBI, in its appeal to the Supreme Court, requested that the bigger Bench hearing, scheduled for today before a five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, be postponed.

● Because a five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court is already considering the Narada bribery case, a vacation bench of Justices Vineet Saran and B R Gavai allowed Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, arguing for the CBI, to withdraw the appeal and submit all of the concerns before the High Court.

● The CBI has decided to drop its appeal against a Calcutta High Court order made on May 21 that permitted four politicians, including three from the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC), to be held in house arrest rather than judicial custody following their arrest in the Narada scam.

● “We have not expressed any position on the merits of the case, and our observations do not represent our views on the merits of the matter,” the bench said, adding that the state of West Bengal and its leaders are free to file appeals with the High Court.

● On May 21, the High Court ordered the transfer of two West Bengal ministers, an MLA, and a former Kolkata mayor from jail to house arrest.

● Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal presided over a division bench that disagreed on the subject of recalling the four accused's bail stay. The case was heard by a five-judge panel of the High Court on May 24, and the CBI's request for an adjournment was denied.

● The solicitor general also requested that the matter be adjourned to Friday at the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court inquires as to why the CBI and the Central government did not move against political figures who attempted to "besiege the CBI office."

● The Supreme Court stated that the problem is one of deprivation of liberty. How could the HC issue a detention order without giving the accused notice? The Supreme Court, on the other hand, refuses to rule on the CBI's appeal of the HC's order for the accused in the Narada sting case to be held under home arrest.


A Special Bench Is Set Up To Safeguard A Person's Liberty

A special CBI court in Kolkata granted bail to the four TMC leaders who were detained on the 17th of May. However, the HC panel stayed the bail ruling without issuing notices to the accused a few hours later.

The top court noted the "unusual method" in which the CBI was granted a special HC hearing at the latter's request, saying: "HC took up the matter at your request and heard it while it was pending before the Special Court." To ensure that someone's liberty is protected, special benches are assigned. For the first time, we are witnessing a special bench convened to revoke someone's liberty.”

Mehta then attempted to portray West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's "dharna" as an uncommon scenario that required the High Court to have an emergency hearing. Banerjee had arrived at the CBI's Kolkata headquarters an hour after the leaders were arrested, and had demanded the CBI to "arrest her or release the ministers."

“We do not back the CM or the law minister,” the Supreme Court said (who attended the hearing in the special CBI court).” It further stated that the CBI was fully within its legal rights to pursue the violators.


Conclusion

“As the appointing authority for such ministers in terms of Article 164 of the Constitution, the Honourable Governor is the authorised authority to accord sanction in terms of law,” said a statement released by the officer on special duty (communication), Raj Bhavan.

The arrests reflect some progress in the "long wait for justice," according to Mathew Samuel, whose Narada sting operation started it all, but he expresses his surprise at the CBI's failure to prosecute Mukul Roy and Suvendu Adhikari "since the evidence against them is pretty much the same as the evidence against those who have been detained."

“Today's arrests are only the tip of the iceberg. The sting demonstrates the degree of government corruption. It demonstrates how easy it is to bribe people in positions of authority, regardless of their political stance. Even though I pretended to be an ordinary businessman, I was able to meet top ministers, MLAs, and bureaucrats simply because they thought they could profit from a deal. I paid Rs. 5 lakh to Suvendu Adhikari in his office. The CBI received this recording as well, and it was forensically proven to be correct. I met Mukul Roy, who refused to accept payment and advised me to give money to Mirza instead (suspended IPS officer arrested in the Narada case in 2019). Mirza received Rs 15 lakh from me, and recorded discussions show that Mirza used the money to help Mukul Roy. It's possible that Roy did not get the money directly from him, and so there is no evidence to prove Roy received it. During questioning, Mirza admitted to the CBI that he took the money for Roy. Why Roy and Adhikari's names do not appear in the charge sheet or the Governor's list of punishments for prosecution is a mystery to me. It's astonishing, to be honest, because you can't pick and choose who you arrest based on the same evidence.” said Mathew Samuel.


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