Millennium Post

Constitutional coup?

Taking the matters into her hand, Mamata Banerjee quickly intervened into the high drama that unfolded in Kolkata on Sunday when a team of 40 CBI officials attempted to raid Kolkata police chief's house for questioning the incumbent regarding the chit fund scam. The state police not only prevented the CBI officials from entering Commissioner Rajeev Kumar's home but further detained them for a brief period to check whether they had the requisite documents to question Kumar. Following the drama outside Kumar's residence, Mamata accused the Centre of trying to stage a "constitutional coup in Bengal". She initiated a dharna to oppose the anti-federal action of CBI to question Kumar despite the Kolkata High Court's stay order till February 13 on the CBI notice to Kumar. This entire episode came following CBI's claims that Kumar was absconding and faced imminent arrest for diluting a SIT probe in the Sarada and Rose Valley chit fund ponzi scam. Kolkata police officials strongly opposed any such claim with additional commissioner Jawed Shamim citing how the allegations by CBI were completely baseless, affirming that Kumar has been attending office every day. Mamata came to the rescue of her people as the state's administrative head, citing how CBI's move was "politically vindictive". It is true that the Supreme Court gave CBI the green light to probe the chit fund scam, however, Calcutta High Court's stay order clearly prevents CBI from sieging Kumar's house – let alone with 40 personnel. Mamata's dharna call was heard across the political spectrum as leaders from different opposition parties offered support and condemned CBI's unconstitutional action plan. The unanimous voice of these supportive leaders and Mamata asserted a clear violation of the nation's federal structure. The support also showcased the alliance's strength that the opposition parties had recently formed back on January 19 in Kolkata. Calling out for an alliance against the lotus party, it seems, has made Mamata a prime target – something she recognises well. The sudden attempt to proactively probe the scam raises suspicion. It is unlikely that CBI decided to raid Kumar's home unaware of the Calcutta HC's order. What lies beyond creates a dubious cloud over the entire episode. Mamata outrightly pronounced the Centre's involvement, alleging it for destabilising the West Bengal government. The only way CBI could have proceeded with their questioning is through a court order which they did not have. Not even a search warrant was present to empower them which strongly gives the benefit of the doubt to Mamata. While the havoc stretched on Monday with Mamata chairing a Cabinet meeting at the protest, the Supreme Court declined an urgent hearing of CBI plea against the Kolkata Police chief. In the plea, CBI has accused Kumar of destroying evidence related to the chit fund scam. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta described the situation as "extraordinary" and cited apprehensions that the "evidence will be destroyed" but the Chief Justice postponed the hearing to Tuesday citing lack of evidence at the moment. Union Home Ministry wants to examine the role of some IPS officers in obstructing the CBI team probing the chit fund scam – affirming whether they violated the service conduct rules by not letting the team question Rajeev Kumar – instead of examining the CBI's anti-federal move. In the rule of law, it is the law which must take its own course rather than being influenced by vested interests or channelised to act upon only one side of the story. The circumstances under which CBI has approached this particular scam – raiding Police chief's home on a Sunday with 40 personnel – makes the matter highly contentious. Even more contentious is CBI's active pursuit of Kolkata Police Commissioner regarding the Ponzi scam and not others connected with the same. Chit fund scam had names of saffron party's Babul Supriyo, Mukul Roy and Roopa Ganguly as well, however, CBI has initiated no action against them. Neither has it done anything similar against Assam Deputy CM Himanta Biswa Sarma – accused of receiving Rs 20 lakh per month from Saradha boss Sudipta Sen for helping him run his business in Assam without hassles. Selective treatment in anti-corruption probes is an even greater instance of corruption. The unbiased approach of CBI in resolving corruption cases seems ambiguous following a crackdown on Kolkata Police Chief alone. Besides the anti-federal move, CBI has also raised public suspicion regarding their biased approach in probing this chit fund scam and it must remove any doubt by setting things right.

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