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HC stays bail order of TMC leaders, ex-Mayor

HC stays bail order of TMC leaders, ex-Mayor

KOLKATA: In a late night dramatic turn of events, the Calcutta High Court on Monday gave a stay order on the interim bail granted to state Cabinet ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee along with Trinamool Congress (TMC) MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Mayor Sovan Chatterjee by the Special CBI court earlier on the same day.

The next hearing in this connection will take place on Wednesday. The Court stayed the lower court's order after a virtual hearing that continued for around 40 minutes till late night. Following the stay order, all the four arrested leaders are likely to be taken to the Correctional Home from the CBI office at Nizam Palace on Tuesday morning.

Sources said they would be staying at the CBI's office only till Tuesday morning. The CBI moved the High Court against the lower court's order stating that they had failed to produce them before the court physically and the production had taken place virtually.

Earlier in the day, the Special CBI court on Monday granted interim bail to all four of them.

The CBI on Monday morning arrested the four heavyweight leaders from their respective residences in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation. The leaders were brought to Nizam Palace. The Central investigating agency submitted a charge-sheet in this connection through virtual mode.

Setting aside the CBI's plea, Judge of Special CBI Court Number one Anupam Mukherjee at the City Sessions Court ordered interim bail stating that "over and above when the purpose of investigation has already been completed as against the arrested persons Madan Mitra, Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee and Sovan Chatterjee and where there is no prayer for the CBI custody for further interrogation, mere prayer for judicial custody cannot be the ground for detention of the arrested persons."

They were given interim bail against a bond of Rs 50,000 each with two sureties of Rs 25,000 each on condition that they must cooperate with the investigating officer in respect to further investigation of the case.

They were produced before the court virtually. Initially, CBI lawyer Dinesh Kumar submitted before the court pleading for police custody of all four. Later, the CBI counsel pleaded to send them to judicial custody mentioning that the four were influential persons and might destroy the evidence.

Kalyan Banerjee, the defense counsel, submitted before the court that there was no prior notice given to his clients which amounted to the violation of the relevant provision of law. In such circumstances, the petitioner could not have been legally detained in violation of guidelines specifically laid down by the Supreme Court of India.

The Supreme Court in Suo Moto W.P No. 01 of 2021 has categorically directed that no arrest can be made or detained amid the rising COVID-19 pandemic period for the offence punishable under seven years and that decision is binding on the present case.

He reiterated that the sanction issued by the Governor is absolutely illegal and unconstitutional.

"It was a concocted video. Basically, the case stands when a person asks for a bribe and it is found that he or she has taken the same. In this case, there was no question of demanding the money and it doesn't appear that any of my clients have made any demand," said the defense counsel.

He argued that Hakim, who is head of the Board of Administrators of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, plays a lead role in the fight against COVID-19. "If he is arrested, then there will be a problem," he argued further.

Banerjee said they also submitted before the court that why only Trinamool Congress leaders were arrested? "Why aren't BJP leaders Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy arrested?" he asked.

Meanwhile, the CBI approached Calcutta High Court challenging the bail order. Banerjee, who is also a TMC MP, took a dig at the Governor saying that he "had given consent for prosecution out of vindictiveness."

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