The CBI on Monday booked 12 top Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, including MPs and ministers, in connection with the Narada sting operation case, drawing a sharp reaction from the party chief Mamata Banerjee, who called it a "political game". The list comprises the who's who of TMC leadership and also an IPS officer.
In the sting operation, which was claimed to have been conducted during April-May 2014, the TMC leaders are seen purportedly accepting money from representatives of a fictitious company in return for favours. The tapes, broadcast by a portal Naradanews.com just before the assembly elections last year, had sent shock waves through West Bengal's ruling party but the party posted a resounding victory under the ebullient Banerjee.
The TMC leaders against whom the CBI has registered the FIR include Rajya Sabha MP Mukul Roy, Lok Sabha MPs--Saugata Roy, Aparupa Poddar, Sultan Ahmed, Prasun Banerjee and Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar. West Bengal ministers including Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, Transport Minister Suvendu Adhikari, Environment Minister Sovan Chatterjee, Panchayati Raj and Rural Development Minister Subrata Mukherjee have also been named in the FIR.
Former Minister Madan Mitra, MLA Iqbal Ahmed and IPS officer Saiyaad Mustafa Hussain Mirza have also been made accused in the case. Mirza, who was then posted as the Superintendent of Police of Burdwan, was too purportedly seen accepting money on camera.
Banerjee, who has been frequently locked in confrontation with the Modi government over a host of issues, including alleged involvement of TMC leaders in the chit fund scam cases, termed the registration of FIR a "political game" which, the chief minister asserted "we will fight politically".
"Because they (CBI) have filed the FIR, does it mean that their guilt is proved? Let them (CBI) first prove the guilt. There is no cause for any worry," she told reporters at the state secretariat in Kolkata. "The CBI conducted the Preliminary Enquiry into the said allegations expeditiously.
"The inquiry revealed prima facie material for registration of a Regular Case (FIR) under appropriate sections of Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and IPC," CBI spokesperson R K Gaur said on Monday. The FIR alleged that the suspected offence against the accused persons involved accepting or agreeing to accept illegal gratification, committing offences of habitual acceptance of bribe, criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct.
The maximum sentence for these crimes ranges from five to seven years imprisonment.
The Calcutta High Court had ordered the CBI to conduct a preliminary enquiry in the matter. The order was challenged by the West Bengal government in the Supreme Court which refused to provide relief on March 17 and gave the CBI one month to file an FIR, if required.
The FIR has been registered under section 120 (b) of IPC related to criminal conspiracy and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act dealing with bribery and criminal misconduct.
The sting operation was supposed to be published in a magazine where Mathew Samuel, the man behind it, was then working. However, the tapes were later run on Naradanews.com where he is now the CEO. The CBI, in its FIR, claimed that it had conducted forensic analysis of the tapes at Central Forensic Science Laboratory in Gujarat which showed that the recordings had not been tampered with.
"There was no tampering or editing of the movie files, which were found in the pen drive handed over by Mathew Samuel to the three-member committee constituted by the Calcutta High Court," the agency has said in the FIR.
The CBI's preliminary enquiry found the suspect public servants, who were shown on the video, either accepted money in cash given by the representative of Impex, the fictitious firm, or asked him to hand over the money to someone else, the FIR alleged.
In some cases, Samuel was asked to arrange money for others known to the suspects, it alleged. Referring to the contents of the video files, the CBI has alleged that Iqbal Ahmed had assured Mathew that he would arrange a meeting with Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Mamata.
The agency alleged that during the preliminary enquiry it found several other people had also conspired with the accused in the commission of alleged offences.
BJP demands arrest of tainted ministers
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya demanded immediate resignation of the "tainted" Cabinet ministers of West Bengal after CBI booked top 12 ruling TMC leaders in connection with the Narada sting operation case.
"We demand that the tainted ministers resign from the Cabinet immediately. They have lost the moral right to continue in office. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee should immediately remove them from the ministry.
"The TMC claims to be a symbol of honesty. If the tainted ministers are not removed, it means TMC supports corruption," he said.
With inputs from PTI
Updated Date: Apr 18, 2017 07:47 AM