Bengal Speaker might summon ED, CBI officers again

Kolkata, Sep 23 (IANS): The ongoing tussle between the central probe agencies and West Bengal Speaker Biman Banerjee on the issue of filing chargesheet in the Narada sting operation case without the latter's permission is far from over.

Unhappy with the response of the probe agencies, which refused to abide by the Speaker's summon to appear in the state Assembly on Wednesday, Banerjee on Thursday indicated not only to call them again, but also move a privilege motion against them if they fail to comply with his summon.

There are strong indications that the secretariat of the state Assembly is not 'satisfied' with the response of the two central probe bodies -- the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Speaking to the media, Banerjee said, "It's not the end of the story."

"No one is above the law. We are looking into all the aspects," sources close to the Speaker said.

The conflict ensued after Banerjee sent a letter to the CBI and the ED on September 13, asking them to appear before him on September 21 to clarify how they could file a chargesheet against three MLAs -- Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukerjee and Mandan Mitra -- without the permission of the Speaker.

Both the ED and the CBI refused to appear before the Speaker and sources in the agencies said that they are consulting legal experts in this matter. They would prefer to take the legal way rather than honouring the Speaker's summons, sources said.

On Wednesday, an official of the ED handed over a letter to Banerjee saying that the agency has fulfilled all the legal formalities.

But instead of meeting the Speaker, he just submitted the letter to the latter's office. Sources in the Assembly said that the ED authorities made it clear that they would not send any representative to the Assembly.

Sources in the ED also said that its letter mentioned that the agency had taken permission from Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, and so the permission of the Speaker was not necessary. The letter also said that it is not possible for any ED representative to appear before the Speaker on this issue.

Similarly, the CBI also sent a mail to the Speaker, saying that it cannot appear before him, pointing out that the Speaker did not have the authority to summon its officers for explanation.

It has also been said that as the investigation is being conducted under the instruction and supervision of the high court, the CBI had the legal binding to submit the chargesheet before the court and in doing so they met will all the legal formalities.

The Narada scam is a sting operation targeting high-ranking officials and politicians of the Trinamool-led West Bengal government carried out in 2014, which reportedly showed several of them accepting bribes and illegal gratifications in exchange for unofficial favours for the companies offering the bribes.

The sting operation was made public ahead of the 2016 Assembly elections. The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI-led probe into the Narada scam in March 2017, while the ED was also roped in to investigate the case.

An ethics committee of the Lok Sabha was also set up as the accused involved Members of Parliament.

Four Trinamool leaders -- Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee -- were arrested by the CBI on May 17 after which West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee held a six-hour protest outside the CBI headquarters in Kolkata, demanding their unconditional release. Her supporters even gheraoed the compound housing the CBI office.

A special CBI court granted interim bail to the four leaders because the agency had not requested for their custody. The CBI court also cited the Supreme Court's judgment on prison decongestion. Challenging the CBI court's order, the CBI appealed to the Calcutta High Court, which revoked the CBI court order and sent the four accused to judicial custody.

However, the Calcutta High Court later ordered the house arrest of the four leaders. Later, they were granted interim conditional bail on May 28 by the Calcutta High Court.



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