The Calcutta High Court on Friday disposed of a string of Public Interest Litigations (PILs) seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into a fake Covid vaccine scam in West Bengal, refusing to interfere in the matter at this stage. The HC, however, said the possibility of an inquiry by the central agency may be considered in the future if the need arises.
Hundreds of people, including actor and Lok Sabha lawmaker from the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress, Mimi Chakraborty, were allegedly injected with bogus vaccines at a camp in Kolkata’s Kasba area that was organised by arrested accused Debanjan Deb, who posed as an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer.
“The investigation into the fake vaccination camps is in a preliminary stage. The Kolkata Police is investigating the matter. Let them continue the probe as we are inclined to have our faith in Kolkata Police’s investigation in this matter,” the court observed, terming the case “rare". “In future…if required, doors are always open for the possibility of a probe by the central agency. But at this stage, let them continue the probe.”
The advocate general informed the court that a charge sheet in the case will be filed soon.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also set to initiate a money-laundering probe in the fake vaccination scam. The central agency has asked the Kolkata Police to send the FIRs of the vaccine fraud case.
Nine persons including alleged mastermind Debanjan Deb, who organised several such camps, have been arrested so far in the matter and are in police custody.
The sensitivity of the case, including fears that it may stoke vaccine hesitancy at a time when the country is trying to scale up the inoculation exercise in a bid to thwart a possible third wave of the pandemic, has prompted chief minister Mamata Banerjee to step in.
Deb, posing as an IAS officer, requested MP Mimi Chakraborty to be present at a Covid-19 vaccination camp organised by him in Kasba on the southern fringes of Kolkata.
Mimi herself got a jab at the camp to boost the morale of the people. Two days later, she started to complain of abdominal pain and dehydration. It was then that the matter came to light.
Officials say Deb had organised a vaccination drive, masquerading as a joint commissioner of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. He was arrested after Mimi alerted the police.