The Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed that West Bengal Transport Minister Madan Mitra, an accused in the multi-crore Saradha chitfund scam, will remain in house confinement under police surveillance till disposal of a CBI plea for cancellation of his bail.
Observing that Mitra is a Cabinet minister and has the power to influence witnesses if allowed to remain free, a division bench of justices Joymalyo Bagchi and Mir Dara Sheko directed that he would remain confined to his residence at Bhowanipore in south Kolkata once he is discharged from hospital
The Bench, noting that Mitra is at present admitted to a private hospital in the city, directed that following his release from the hospital, he would be taken to his residence.
It further directed that Mitra shall not move out of his house unless there was a medical emergency or requirement for investigation purposes by CBI.
The vacation Bench, taking note of the CBI counsel’s submission that the Alipore Court had granted bail to Mitra in haste, said that the matter required hearing on merit and as such a regular bench, preferably the one which had earlier heard his bail prayer, should hear the CBI's prayer for cancellation of the minister’s bail.
CBI counsel K Raghava Charyulu submitted before the bench that under section 439 of the CrPC, the Court of Sessions must serve notice to the public prosecutor for a bail hearing.
He claimed that no such notice had been served on CBI counsel and as such the order granting bail to Mitra was illegal. The high court is at present in vacation and will reopen on November 16. The division bench directed Mitra's counsel to file affidavit on the CBI’s prayer by November 13. The CBI would file its counter to Mitra’s affidavit by November 17. The bench directed that the matter would come up for hearing on November 17 before the regular Bench.
Mitra, who was arrested by the CBI on December 12, 2014 for alleged complicity in the Saradha scam, was granted bail by ACJM (in-charge) of Alipore District and Sessions Court Partha Pratim Das. Mitra had been in the state-run SSKM Hospital since February 11 on the ground of illness and went home from there after being declared fit by a medical board of the hospital, only a day after being granted bail.
The minister’s bail prayers had earlier been rejected by trial courts on a few occasions and once by the high court. Mitra was again admitted to a private hospital on November 3 after complaining of chest discomfort, pain and sweating, at around the same time that the CBI moved the high court on that day seeking cancellation of his bail when the court sat for the day at 10.30 am
The division Bench noted that the investigating officer of the CBI, which is probing the Saradha chitfund scam on a Supreme Court order, was in Raipur on the date of hearing at the Alipore court on a prior witness summons by a court there.
The CBI told the Bench that while the summons by the Raipur court was issued on October 8, the minister's counsel had sent notice to it for the October 31 hearing on October 14. Justice Bagchi asked Mitra’s counsel as to which was more important, whether the witness summons or a bail prayer, which had been rejected by the trial court a few times earlier and also by the high court. In its order, the division bench noted that there was no reflection on the ACJM's order of change in circumstances since August 6, when the minister's bail prayer was rejected by the high court.
The case diary of the matter could also not be presented before the ACJM court as the IO was not present.
The CBI counsel submitted that he had pleaded before the ACJM for fixing the bail plea hearing on the next day as the IO would return on that evening itself, but it was not allowed.