Bail granted to two West Bengal ministers and two other TMC leaders, who were arrested in connection to the Narada string tapes case, were put on hold on Monday evening after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) challenged it in the Calcutta High Court. The CBI sought a transfer of the trial of the case outside Bengal, citing protests by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) supporters outside its office.
Upon the request of the CBI, the HC decided that the leaders would be put in jail custody. All four, who were in the CBI office even after being granted bail, will be taken to the Presidency jail tonight.
The CBI had on Monday morning apprehended state ministers Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra and former party leader Sovan Chatterjee in connection with its probe into the sting operation, in which politicians were purportedly caught accepting bribes on camera. A special CBI court, however, granted them interim bail later in the day.
The court directed that each of the four persons will have to pay two sureties of Rs 25,000 each as bail bonds. The four leaders were also directed to meet the investigating officer in the case once a fortnight till further orders and to co-operate with him.
The leaders’ arrests saw a political uproar in the state with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sitting on a dharna at the probe agency’s office for six hours. Several TMC supporters also besieged the premises and indulged in violent protests in several parts of the state.
The Trinamool Congress (TMC) accused the BJP-run Centre of using the CBI for political vendetta due to the saffron party’s recent loss in the assembly election, after the agency arrested the four leaders, who were allegedly caught on camera while taking bribes in the 2014 sting by a news channel.
The Narada sting tapes, which were made public before the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal, were claimed to have been shot in 2014, wherein people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were allegedly seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of promised favours. The sting was conducted by Mathew Samuel of Narada News portal.
The Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the Narada sting operation in March, 2017. The CBI had registered cases against 12 TMC leaders, many of whom are now in BJP, and an IPS officer.