By LE Desk

New Delhi, June 25, 2021: The Supreme Court today stayed a Calcutta High Court order refusing to take on record affidavits filed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and others in connection with the Narada bribery case.

The court directed Banerjee, the Bengal government and state Law Minister Moloy Ghatak, to file fresh pleas asking the High Court to reconsider taking the affidavits on record. The apex court also asked the High Court to decide on the fresh pleas and accepting the affidavits at the next scheduled hearing on June 29, NDTV reported.

The top court was hearing three appeals including that of the state government challenging the high court’s denial for filing of affidavits by Banerjee and Ghatak in their role on the day of the arrest of four Trinamool Congress leaders on May 17 by the CBI in the Narada scam case.

A vacation bench of Justices Vineet Saran and Dinesh Maheshwari urged the 5-judge bench of the Calcutta high court, headed by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, to decide afresh the pleas of Banerjee, Ghatak, and the state government before deciding on the CBI petition seeking transfer of the scam case to the high court itself.

The orders from the Supreme Court came after two judges — Justices Aniruddha Bose and Indira Banerjee — recused themselves from hearing this case. Both judges hail from Kolkata. Last week Justice Banerjee also opted out of a separate case related to post-poll violence in parts of Bengal. The case was reassigned to Justice Vineet Saran and rescheduled for hearing today. 

On June 9, a five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, led by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, had declined to accept the affidavits filed by Banerjee and Ghatak.

Senior advocates Rakesh Dwivedi and Vikas Singh, appearing for Ghatak and the Bengal government, said the affidavits had to be on record as they dealt with roles of concerned persons.

The High Court said Banerjee and Ghatak took the risk of not filing the affidavits at the right time. “… cannot now be allowed to file the affidavits at their own whims and fancies,” it said, reported NDTV.

The affidavits contained Banerjee and Ghatak’s version of events on May 17, when the Central Bureau of Investigation arrested three Trinamool Congress leaders, including two ministers, and an ex-MLA of the ruling party in connection with the Narada case.

The arrests were followed by a furious Mamata Banerjee camping outside the agency’s office for six hours. At the same time a large crowd of Trinamool supporters gathered and protested outside the building, throwing stones and trying to break barricades.

Citing the protests and calling them “mobocracy”, the CBI had asked for the Narada case hearing to be transferred out of the state. Banerjee and Ghatak’s affidavits were meant to counter the CBI’s transfer request.

The Narada case involves a 2014 sting op by a journalist who posed as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal. He gave wads of cash to seven Trinamool MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer as bribes and taped the entire exchange. The tapes were released just before the 2016 Assembly election.

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