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House arrest for 4 Trinamool heavyweights in Narada case
Kolkata, May 21, 2021
In a dramatic twist in the Narada case hearing, four heavyweights of the ruling Trinamool Congress -- Firhad Hakim, Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Sovan Chatterjee -- have been ordered to stay under "house arrest" instead of "judicial custody" as a new bench is being constituted to hear the case.
A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Arijit Banerjee had a difference of opinion.
The matter will be referred to a larger bench for final opinion.
In the order, Justice Arijit Banerjee said that interim bail be granted to the four arrested TMC leaders -- Hakim, Mitra, Mukherjee and Chatterjee -- but Acting Chief Justice Bindal differed saying they must be kept in house arrest.
According to the rule, the interim bail issue has been referred to a larger bench, because of the difference in view.
Meanwhile, the Calcutta High Court has also ordered that the four arrested TMC leaders be kept under house arrest and all medical amenities be given to them.
Senior lawyers are of the opinion that as a matter of protocol when there is a difference of opinion in the first bench the matter is generally referred to the senior-most judge for reference but it solely depends on the Chief Justice and he might form a larger bench for the matter.
Earlier defence lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi pressing for the interim bail said, "Difference of opinion should lead to liberty. The bench should be constituted on Friday itself."
"The person is a minister and is responsible for handling the Covid situation in the city as well as in the state. In this condition, the minister should be given access to meet the officials and handle files regarding Covid-related work," he added referring to Hakim.
The Bench, responding to the plea, said that the arrested persons can access files, meet officials but only through video conference and are allowed to continue on with the work they are doing.
The bench, however, refused the CBI's plea for a stay of the order.
Meanwhile, acting Chief Justice Bindal said that the constitution of the larger bench is an administrative matter, and will be done in due course.
The CBI had on Monday arrested the four -- State ministers Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, TMC MLA Madan Mitra, and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee -- in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation case.
A virtual hearing was held on Monday at Bankshall Court in Kolkata. The accused were virtually produced from Nizam Palace before the court.
The Bankshall Court had granted bail to the four TMC leaders. However, the Calcutta High court stayed the order soon after as the CBI challenged it while stating that they are unable to work properly and that their investigation is getting affected.
The four were arrested for allegedly "demanding and accepting illegal gratification to show favour to a private person who was posing as a representative of a fictitious company". The alleged act was captured on camera.