House arrest for 2 Bengal ministers in cash-for-favors scam
A higher court in the city of Kolkata in eastern India on Friday placed under house arrest two senior West Bengal government ministers and two other politicians apprehended by the country’s main federal investigative agency in connection with a cash-for-favors scam.
The Kolkata High Court issued the order, denying bail to the four politicians – sitting ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, and former ministers Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee – jailed after being arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier this week for their alleged role in the Narada gang scandal.
The four politicians were actually sent to jail on Monday after the High Court, in a late-night order, suspended their bail granted by a special IWC tribunal.
“The High Court’s division bench, headed by the acting chief justice, has ordered the house arrest of the four politicians, after there was a difference of opinion between the two judges on the bench. The other judge on the bench was in favor of granting provisional bail to the accused, ”lawyer Sushanto Roy told UNB by telephone from Kolkata.
On Monday, a big drama unfolded in Calcutta as Mamata organized a five-hour dharna in front of the office of the federal investigative agency to protest against the “illegal” arrest of his two top ministers in the case of Narada gang scandal. She told the media that the president of the State Assembly had not given his mandatory consent to the arrest of the two ministers.
While Firhad and Subrata are ministers of urban development and Panchayati Raj respectively, Madan is a lawmaker for Mamata’s ruling Trinamool Congress party. Sovan, on the other hand, is the former mayor of Kolkata. He left Trinamool in 2019 to join the ruling party in India, Bharatiya Janata, but left the outfit ahead of the assembly ballot.
The two former ministers and the two former ministers were arrested just 10 days after the governor of Bengal, Jagdeep Dhankhar, approved the CBI’s plea to prosecute the four defendants in the Narada gang scandal.
The governor then said his approval “was more than sufficient” for the arrest of the defendants, as he had presided over their swearing-in ceremony. “The governor sanctioned the prosecution … being the minister appointing authority @MamataOfficial under section 164 and therefore the competent authority,” he tweeted on May 9.
The Narada scandal was a stinging operation carried out by a journalist who recorded several ministers and senior officials of the former Mamata government accepting cash bribes in exchange for unofficial favors to a private company seeking to establish themselves in Bengal.
Earlier this month, Mamata made history by single-handedly securing an astonishing victory in the Assembly election. She not only defied the anti-exit and avoided a huge challenge from the ruling BJP of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but also decimated the Left Front. However, the 66-year-old lost her own seat in Nandigram.
Bengal witnessed the most publicized contest in India’s recent state elections. While Mamata insisted on being the daughter of Bengal, the BJP called on people to vote for “socio-economic change and development” after 50 years of Communist Congress and Trinamool rule.