By LE Desk

Kolkata, May 25: The five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court questioned the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) that if the four leaders, accused in the Narada sting operation case, were not arrested in the last seven years then why were they being arrested now when the charge sheet of the case has been submitted.

“The bench, while hearing the case on Monday, said that one of the issues was that if the accused persons were not arrested in the last seven years, then what was the need of arrest now when the charge sheet of the case has been filed?” said Anindya Raut, advocate and TMC leader, the Hindustan Times reported.

The court would again take up the matter on May 26 until then the accused, including two cabinet ministers, a legislator and a former mayor, would stay under house arrest.

The Solicitor General who was appearing for the CBI, however, told the court that the issue was not just of bail but whether the bail hearing of the special CBI court on May 17 was non-est in law.

On May 17, the CBI arrested two cabinet ministers, a legislator and a former mayor in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation case. Even though a special CBI court granted them interim bail, the Calcutta High Court stayed the bail and sent them to judicial custody.

On May 21, however, the HC put them under house arrest and constituted a larger five bench to hear the bail plea.

Meanwhile, the CBI moved the Supreme Court seeking adjournment from the hearing of the Calcutta High Court.

The Solicitor General who was appearing for the CBI prayed before the five-judge bench that the hearing be adjourned as the agency has filed a special leave petition (SLP) before the apex court. The High Court, however, refused the prayer and went ahead with the hearing as the Supreme Court hasn’t heard the matter yet.

“The court would again hear the matter on May 26. Till then, the accused would remain in house arrest,” said Manishankhar Chatterjee, Subrata Mukherjee’s advocate.

The case pertains to a controversy that erupted ahead of the 2016 assembly elections after Narada News portal uploaded a series of videos purportedly showing several high-profile TMC leaders receiving money in exchange for favours to a fictitious company.

The TMC has linked the arrests to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s loss in the recently concluded assembly polls. It has questioned why the CBI didn’t arrest Suvendu Adhikari and Mukul Roy who were also seen in the sting videos but have since switched from the TMC to the BJP.

The CBI’s plea to transfer the Narada trial out of the state is also pending before the High Court. The agency has named West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, law minister Moloy Ghatak, and lawmaker Kalyan Banerjee as respondents in its plea to transfer the trial of the case from the lower court. It claimed violent protests orchestrated by the TMC against the arrests hampered its probe and intimidated lower courts.

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