Millennium Post

As matters stand

The rule of law prevails as the Supreme Court made a cameo in the Mamata-Centre impasse that had gripped the national dailies since Sunday's unprecedented drama. CBI's obstructed siege at Kolkata Police Commissioner's residence by the state police left a sour taste for the Centre while Mamata Banerjee resorted to a dharna, strongly opposing CBI's anti-federal move and condemning the Centre for strategising a "coup" to destabilise the West Bengal government. After postponing CBI's plea on Monday, citing that the allegations were unsubstantiated, the Apex Court pronounced its verdict on Tuesday. The Supreme Court has asked the Kolkata Police Chief Rajeev Kumar to join CBI's probe and appear for questioning at Shillong – mutual place since the sensitivity of the issue – while asserting a no-arrest order. The next hearing in the matter will take place on February 20. The law took its own course whilst the interpretation of the Supreme Court's order differed. Mamata opined on how this was a "moral" victory citing how SC vindicated her dharna in support of police officers in West Bengal. However, Union Law Minister urged that it was "a great moral victory for the CBI". Clearly, the difference in both of their proclamations speaks for their respective perspectives to the issue. The saffron party has alleged that the leaders of Trinamool Congress (TMC) were beneficiaries in chit fund scams where crores of rupees were fraudulently amassed from small investors. Interestingly, it was Mamata's government who had constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the chit fund scam which led to the arrest of Saradha Chairman Sudipta Sen. Now SIT's probe and amassed evidence has great significance in CBI's probe which has got the spotlight ever since the turmoil that erupted in Bengal on Sunday. CBI, in its affidavit, said that the obstruction, and subsequent detention, of its officials in Kolkata, amounted to an "armed rebellion" against the Central government and agencies. CBI's heightened interest in probing Kumar arises from its allegation that SIT was "conniving" with people accused in chit fund scams while actively subverting the investigation. In fact, Attorney General KK Venugopal told the Supreme Court that SIT did not properly investigate people connected to TMC regarding the scam – urging a total breakdown of constitutional machinery in West Bengal. He pointed out the lacunas in the investigation which could either be a "serious omission" or a "deliberate commission". Though CBI's probe will unveil the actual story, it is obnoxious on CBI's part to not mention other names regarding the big scam. Ex-Trinamool Congress and current BJP leader Mukul Roy and Assam's deputy Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma both have been linked with the chit fund scam, yet CBI's inaction against them garners criticism. A comprehensive and unbiased probe is what is expected of the nation's premier investigation agency. But CBI's selective probing sparks inquisitiveness. It was quick to express its apprehension to SC that Rajeev Kumar, who had headed the SIT probing the chit fund scam, may destroy evidence but carried on with silence regarding the lotus party's leaders. When Union Law Minister urges how Lakhs of small investors were cheated and looted of their money, his question: "Is it not our moral obligation to push for an investigation?", gathers unanimous support for the investigation. Justice is obviously the desired outcome. But neither he nor the CBI mentioned anything about the others. In such a scenario, the credibility of CBI gets a hit. A commoner's opinion at this juncture would grossly highlight CBI's questionable approach. Further, its point of action in the Kolkata episode remains a contentious matter since "questioning" Kumar with 40 personnel in a crackdown on his house without a warrant does not qualify for CBI's cited intent. The Apex Court's enforced intervention into the matter has made the muddy water a bit clearer, though still muddy. While the highest court's order gives a new direction to this politicised standoff, it is to be noted how a scam probe by a specialised organisation has been politicised. CBI cases often grab the headlines for being eye-openers but the special attraction has not been the eye-opening facts. Rather, the debate between parties, with an eye on the upcoming elections, has so far exaggerated the entire routine CBI probe. So when the matters have duly surged into the political spectrum, involving political spat between government and the opposition, with some taking it to the social platforms, it becomes an even greater responsibility for the CBI to carry out a comprehensive, and not a selective, probe.

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