The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested three Trinamool Congress legislators, including two ministers in Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee government, as well as a former MLA of the party in the Narada sting case after the governor’s consent to prosecute them. But the agency has been waiting for over two years now for a nod from the Lok Sabha Speaker to prosecute four other senior leaders in the same case, including the BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari.
Records from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) show the CBI had applied for prosecution sanction for MPs Sougata Roy, Prasun Banerjee, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar and Suvendu Adhikari in the Narada case on April 6, 2019. The first three continue to be Lok Sabha lawmakers of the TMC, while Adhikari was a Trinamool MP till 2016. The case was registered by the agency as FIR Number 10A in 2017. CVC records publicly available till last November show this case is the only one that is pending for prosecution sanction with the office of the Lok Sabha Speaker.
Adhikari joined the BJP in December last year and defeated chief minister Mamata Banerjee from the Nandigram seat in the recent assembly elections. Ideally, prosecution sanction requests must be decided by the competent authority within a period of four months. This case is among the 102 in which prosecution sanction stood delayed with various authorities and ministries beyond four months as of November last year. The Supreme Court earlier came down heavily on prosecution sanction decisions being inordinately delayed.
“Chargesheet against five accused persons against whom prosecution sanction is received, is being submitted today. Further investigation of this case shall continue,” the CBI said in a statement on Monday. These five were Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra, Sovan Chatterji and IPS officer SMH Meerza. West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar granted prosecution sanction against the first four accused on May 7 on the grounds that he is the competent authority with regard to the state council of ministers and all four were ministers in 2016. The union home ministry meanwhile granted sanction to prosecute the IPS officer.
The CBI applied for prosecution sanction from the governor in January this year and he subsequently sought more documents before granting the permission on May 7, two days after Mamata Banerjee took oath as the chief minister for the third time. “All four were state ministers at the time of the commission of the offence in 2016 and the state governor is hence the competent authority to grant prosecution sanction. With regard to the four other leaders who were Lok Sabha MPs in 2016, Lok Sabha Speaker is the competent authority,” a senior official told News18.
The Trinamool Congress has termed the sanction given by the West Bengal governor “illegal", saying Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee were sworn in as Ministers on May 10 and the sanction was accorded by the governor before that. However, in a clarification issued on May 9, the governor had said he had granted sanction “for the reason that all of them at the relevant time of commission of crime were holding the position of Ministers in Government of West Bengal” and that the governor is the competent authority to accord sanction as he happens to be the appointing authority for such ministers in terms of Article 164 of the Constitution.
The Narada case is a sting operation aired in 2016 where TMC leaders were allegedly caught accepting or agreeing to accept bribes, as per the CBI. Mathew Samuel, who did the sting operation then, on Monday issued a statement and asked why Suvendu Adhikari has not been acted against so far in a similar manner by the agency. “Where is he? He had also received money from me. It was recorded and handed over to the CBI. Justice has to go everywhere in the same manner,” Samuel said.