Rajeev Kumar agrees to face sleuths in Shillong on Friday.
New Delhi: Putting to rest the simmering controversy for now, the Supreme Court on Tuesday directed the Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar to appear before the CBI in Shillong, a neutral place outside West Bengal, for facing questions on Saradha scam while making it clear that he will not be arrested.
Within hours of the three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, offering Mr Kumar protection against arrest, the beleaguered IPS officer wrote a letter to the CBI informing it that he will meet investigators in Shillong on February 8.
During the hearing. the CBI sought access to Kolkata police chief, who is at the heart of a huge showdown between the CBI and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, for questioning and accused him of attempts to shield suspects, including leaders of the ruling Trinamul Congress, in the multi-crore chit fund scams by “doctoring” phone call records, tampering with the electronic evidence and taking selective action against culprits.
The apex court Bench, including Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna, also issued a notice to Mr Kumar and sought his response before February 20, the next date of hearing, on the CBI’s allegation that the Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by him provided the agency with doctored materials at the time of handing over the probe into the scams.
Earlier, while observing that there is “no reason why he (Kumar) will not make himself available for the investigation,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, “We make it clear that no
coercive steps including arrest shall be taken against the commissioner of police.”
After hearing attorney-general K.K. Venugopal, who maintained that a contempt of court has been committed by preventing CBI officers from exercising their duties, the Bench issued notices to West Bengal chief secretary and director general of police seeking their responses by February 18.
The Bench made it clear that on consideration of their replies, the court may require the personal presence of the three officers on February 20 and the Secretary General of the court would intimate this to them on February 19.
The CBI went to the Supreme Court on Monday, after its team that arrived at Kolkata police chief’s home was blocked by police, bundled into buses and detained for a few hours. The dramatic developments on Sunday evening led to Ms Banerjee launching a sit-in that ended on Tuesday. The Centre had dubbed the ill-treatment of CBI officials an indication of “constitutional breakdown”.
Earlier, Mr Venugopal submitted that the state police was not co-operating with the probe. Citing instances, he said the material handed over to the CBI was not the entire material. “We had serious doubts over the documents which were handed over to us. Call data, which was given to us, was incomplete. There is a serious breakdown of legal machinery and law and order in West Benga,” he said.
The AG along with solicitor general Tushar Mehta said, “Can state police confront Centre’s police which is acting pursuant to the orders of this court? Your lordships have to issue notice for contempt and also lay down the law in this regard. The conduct of Mr Kumar and the State of West Bengal amounted to contempt of the Supreme Court judgment.”
The CBI affidavit said “such actions which were on a public display throughout the country tantamount to nothing less than an armed rebellion against the Central government and the Central agencies. The SIT used to shield selective companies such as Sharadha, Rose Valley and Tower Group, which have given huge contributions (even by way of cheques) to the party in power in West Bengal. Kolkata police commissioner tampered with material related to the chit fund scams and primary evidence in the form of CDRs.”
The CBI said it is also investigating “inaction, selective action, police and chit fund nexus”.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for West Bengal government refuted the submissions, saying that the whole episode on Sunday was enacted with the object of harassment and humiliation.
He said that there is no non-cooperation on the part of West Bengal, and that if the CBI had a problem, they should go to the Calcutta high court. He also submitted that the CBI officers were neither arrested nor detained. “I have videos of the episode,” he added.