A division bench of the Calcutta High Court on Monday directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to be a party in a PIL about the assets and property details of 19 top Trinamool Congress leaders, including seven current ministers in West Bengal.
The bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bhardwaj gave this directive acting on a PIL filed in 2017 by petitioner Biplob Roy Chowdhury over the growth in assets of the TMC legislators, parliamentarians, and ministers.
Among those named in the PIL are state education minister Bratya Basu, state municipal affairs minister and Kolkata mayor Firhad Hakim, state law minister Maloy Ghatak, state forest minister Jyotipriyo Mullick, state cooperation minister Arup Roy, state disaster management minister Javed Ahmed Khan, and minister of state for panchayat affairs Seuli Saha.
Two deceased ministers of the West Bengal cabinet— former state panchayat minister Subrata Mukherjee and former state cooperation minister Sadhan Pandey— are also on the list.
The list also has the names of West Bengal assembly speaker Biman Banerjee and Barrackpore Lok Sabha lawmaker Arjun Singh.
Singh who switched from the TMC to the Bharatiya Janata Party and then came back recently told News18, “If ED comes for investigation, let them come and do an investigation. It’s not a problem for me. This is politics. This man always files such PILs. This won’t affect me in any way.”
Trinamool Congress mayor of Siliguri Municipal Corporation, Gautam Deb, MLAs Madan Mitra and Swarnakamal Saha, and former state finance minister and current principal financial advisor to the West Bengal government, Amit Mitra, have also been named.
Biplob Roy Chowdhury, who filed the PIL in 2017, told News18, “After so many years today was the first hearing, and the Chief Justice bench directed that ED should be made a party in this case. This is what our demand was. We want ED to investigate this disproportionate property all of them have. They can recover black money. We don’t have faith in the income tax department.”
BJP representatives, including leader of opposition in the assembly Suvendu Adhikari, have been supporting the move.
The next hearing in the matter is on September 5.
The development comes on the heels of state minister Partha Chatterjee being arrested by the ED and huge amounts of cash and valuables being recovered from several properties allegedly linked to him in connection with a teacher recruitment scam.
Gautam Deb, who has also been named in the PIL, told News18, “This case itself is politically motivated. Let ED come and investigate. We have already given an affidavit and there is nothing in the case.”