In a major setback to the Trinamul Congress and its supremo Mamata Banerjee, the Calcutta High Court has directed the CBI to investigate the prominent TMC leaders seen on camera accepting bribes. The sting operation carried out by Narada news and led by its CEO Mathew Samuel, caught 11 Trinamool leaders, including 6 MPs, MLAs, and three top state ministers, besides a senior IPS official, accepting bribes from a non-existent company. The mayor of Calcutta was also seen accepting bribes. Today, the HC bench presided over by Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty, blasted the Bengal Police as ‘mere puppets’ and asked the Central Bureau to take over the investigation.
The High Court judges directed the CBI to complete a preliminary inquiry within 72 hours and to file a FIR, should it be deemed necessary. The sting operation was made public just prior to the Bengal assembly elections last year on March 14. At that time, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee had raised doubts about the veracity of Narada News’ operations and had alleged opposition involvement in the entire affair. CM Banerjee has also alleged that the entire footage of the sting operation was doctored. However, the Central Forensic Science Laboratory or CFSL, where the footage was sent to test its authenticity, stated later that the footage was original and undoctored.
HC Shatters TMC’s Dreams of A Clean Chit
The High Court’s ruling is sure to add to the headaches of Bengal’s ruling dispensation as more and more of its leaders come under the scanner for alleged financial improprieties. Two of the party’s MPs, Tapas Pal and Sudip Bandhopadhyay, are already in jail for their involvement in the multi-thousand crore Rose Valley Chit Fund Scam. Besides Rose Valley, the Saradha Scam also snared former minister of transport Madan Mitra, who was in jail for some time and who is out on bail now.
The Narada sting operation caught several prominent TMC figures accepting bribes for a fictitious company founded by Samuel, who was acting as the company;s promoter and who took a hidden camera to meet the high and mighty for ‘favours’. TMC MPs Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Suvendu Adhikari, Sultan Ahmed, and Prasun Banerjee, were seen accepting bribes as were state ministers Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim, and Madan Mitra. The Mayor Sovan Chatterjee was also implicated as was senior IPS officer SMH Mirza. There were murmurs earlier that the central agency would take over the investigation as a senior police officer was also alleged to have been involved.