Kolkata: A virtual showdown ensued in Kolkata on Sunday after a scuffle broke out between police officers and CBI sleuths outside Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar's residence. The tense situation poses the first immediate challenge for new CBI chief Rishi Kumar Shukla, who will assume charge on Monday.
The high drama began in the evening when a team of CBI arrived at the IPS officer’s residence as a part of their investigation in Rose Valley and Saradha Ponzi scams. However, within an hour, officers of Kolkata police arrived there and forced out the CBI team from there, said sources.
The police refused to comment on why it had “forcefully taken away” CBI sleuths to Shakespeare Saranai police station. The detained also included several senior officers.
Throwing her weight behind the city police chief, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee rushed to the Loudon Street residence of Kumar in central Kolkata.
Banerjee has repeatedly alleged that the CBI was conducting politically motivated arrests and raids against its leaders and officers of the state government.
On Friday, the Bengal CM had said she was "sorry" that Kumar wasn't present at a meeting with the Election Commission on Thursday. After news reports that Kumar was “absconding”, the Kolkata police put out a statement denying this.
The CBI alleged that they were "assaulted" and "forced out from there" and sources confirmed that they would be writing to the Ministry of Home Affairs regarding the same.
Banerjee arrived soon after and began a meeting with the police top brass, including ADJ law and order Anuj Sharma. However, TMC sources said, the removal of CBI officers from the residence needs to be seen in the larger context of Banerjee’s politics against the CBI.
In November, West Bengal had withdrawn the ‘general consent’ for the CBI. Hence, their immunity under the pertinent law was also gone.
The general consent, accorded to the CBI by the then Left Front government in 1989, states that the central agency could conduct any investigation without taking separate permission from the state government.
A senior TMC leader said, "This entire thing is politically motivated. Look at the timing, the raids and the increased interest of CBI has increased after the BJP's losses in the state Assembly elections."
Earlier, the CBI had written repeatedly to Kumar asking him to join the investigation. “At the time, the top brass of West Bengal police had written to the CBI and told them to send a questionnaire to the officer, which the state would respond,” said a Kolkata police source.
A 1989-batch IPS officer, Kumar had replaced Surajit Kar Purkayastha as Kolkata commissioner in January 2016. The commission had earlier directed state governments to transfer officials posted in their home districts and those who have spent three years in a post in the past four years, in order to ensure that officials do not interfere in the election process in any way and the exercise remains free and fair.