West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s dictatorial and absolutist control over state institutions has once again been exposed. This time around, the Supreme Court has come down heavily on the West Bengal police and government.
The adverse remarks by the Supreme Court came during the hearing into the Saradha scam probe. The CBI counsel averred that the West Bengal police was obstructing the CBI in its probe into the multi-crore Saradha Ponzi scam. The Supreme Court termed the allegations of such obstruction by the West Bengal police as a “sorry state of affairs” and directed the state SIT to refrain from summoning and questioning CBI officials.
The apex court also observed that due to such obstructions, the prosecution of those accused in the case was getting delayed. It added that “till now, there is no prosecution against the accused. Most of the accused are out on bail. In 2014, this court had ordered CBI probe, but till now not much headway has been made “
In fact, the division bench consisting of Justice Arun Mishra and Juatice S A Abdul Nazeer made stinging observations and stated that “They (CBI and SIT) are obstructing each other. This is a sorry state of affairs. We are not happy with it. This is not the way things should go on. Whoever is the culprit needs to be booked. It should not be the case that investigating agencies are siding with the accused.” The court also asked the probe agencies to keep in mind that this is a serious case and it should not be taken lightly. The bench made it clear that the West Bengal police cannot summon the CBI officials for questioning, as it was the apex court that had asked the CBI in 2014 to investigate the matter.
Senior Congress leaders and advocates, Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for the Mamata government, vehemently opposed the averments made by the CBI counsel. They stated that CBI officials were never summoned and only called for their statement regarding an incident in which there was a magistrate court’s order. To this, the bench said, “no, you can’t call them. This is not the way and not a correct thing. They have to work in tandem with each other”.
The apex court has also granted liberty to the CBI to voice its concerns, if any, before the High Court. The apex court had handed over the probe in the Saradha Ponzi scam to the CBI in 2014 along with 44 similar unlicensed outfits in Odisha, which had raised thousands of crores of rupees from gullible investors. At that time as well, the West Bengal police and government had come under heavy criticism. The state government had all through the hearing opposed a CBI probe. However, the apex court then observed that the West Bengal police was not able to make much headway in the conspiracy angle, money trail and the seizure of the properties related to the scam. The top court had also asked the ED to join the CBI in tracking the money trail connected to this scam.
These observations made by the Supreme Court have exposed the Mamata-led West Bengal government badly. It is clear that the West Bengal state government operates like a totalitarian regime and interferes with the functioning of even the central institutions. This casts serious aspersions on the state government and its intentions. If the Mamata government is not showing any respect for central institutions like the CBI, one can only imagine what she would have done to the institutions directly falling under her control.