CBI vs Mamata: Who is right, who is wrong?

Nothing unconstitutional: CBI on late-night Kolkata confrontation
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addresses media persons outside Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar's official residence in Kolkata on Sunday. Photo: IANS

Kolkata: The unprecedented standoff between the Centre and West Bengal government is expected to continue, with the CBI locking horns with the Mamata Banerjee government and planning to investigate Sunday’s late-night confrontation at the state police headquarters as part of the 'larger conspiracy' to withhold and destroy evidence in the Saradha chit fund scam case.

CBI Joint Director (east) Pankaj Srivastava told THE WEEK that the CBI is going by the 'rule book' and there isn’t anything unconstitutional in the way the agency had acted in the case where Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajiv Kumar faces allegations.

Srivastava said, “The case was handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court. The CBI is acting well within its powers to carry on its investigations without any obstruction. Whether it is questioning certain officials or gathering evidence, the CBI is only doing its duty.” Sources in the CBI said they did not need any prior permission to go to the police commissioner's premises as the agency had already begun its investigations in the case.

On whether any fresh case will be registered by the CBI, Srivastava said there is no need for a fresh FIR for now, as all aspects of investigation will be covered, including the fresh developments, in the ongoing case.

Sources said the CBI is looking at the larger conspiracy in the Saradha scam and the involvement of certain high-ranking officials and individuals. On Sunday night, after the CBI marched its sleuths to Kolkata to question Kumar, they were stopped and detained by the state police even as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sat on a dharna.

Banerjee has been accusing the Narendra Modi government of misusing the CBI for political reasons and destroying the federal structure. In the midst of this slugfest is the CBI, and Banerjee has got the support of other political parties like Congress, National Conference and Aam Aadmi Party, which has set the stage for a political battle on the issue ahead of the general elections.

Meanwhile, additional CBI teams were also put on the job as interim CBI Director Nageshwar Rao took stock of the situation on Sunday night and spoke to Srivastava, who is learnt to have informed that the evidence had been caused to disappear and sleuths were being prevented from taking charge of evidence. The CBI moved the Supreme Court on Monday, accusing Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar of destroying evidence related to the case and him of indulging in contempt of court.

Mamata stages dharna

The PTI reported that several party supporters from different districts thronged the area shouting slogans in support of Banerjee who has been on a sit-in protest over the incident.

"This is a Satyagraha and I'll continue till the country is saved," Banerjee told reporters who accompanied her at the place of dharna.

(The story originally appeared in The Week)

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