Narada tapes: HC asks Bengal govt if it is open to CBI probe

As allegations are against public figures in the state, inquiry should be done by independent agency and not local police, the bench said.

Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Friday asked the West Bengal government whether it was amenable to an inquiry by CBI into the Narada sting tapes to establish if any offence was committed, to which the state objected.

A division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre and Justice T Chakraborty said if any offence was found to have been committed in the preliminary inquiry, then a formal criminal investigation could be initiated.

The bench said as the allegations are against public figures in the state, it was of the opinion that the inquiry be done by an independent agency and not by local police.

Objecting to the suggestion by the bench, state Advocate General Jayanta Mitra submitted that mere allegations cannot lead to criminal process against someone, whether he or she is an MP, an MLA or an ordinary person.

Claiming that the court has no jurisdiction to pass such an order, Mitra submitted that the recordings had been made public in 2016, two years after the video tapes were made in 2014 showing TMC leaders purportedly accepting money.

He claimed that the delay had to be taken into account by the court and the motive behind making the tapes public just before the Assembly elections in 2016 had to be ascertained.

Arguing that Mathew Samuel, editor of Narada News, which had conducted the sting operation on Trinamool Congress ministers, MPs and MLAs, had pernicious designs in conducting the sting, the AG said that a person who is trying to honeytrap someone is equally guilty.

Mitra submitted that Samuel has to justify his act by providing every detail of his operation from the beginning.

Appearing for some of the TMC leaders purportedly seen in the video tapes, counsel Kalyan Bandopadhyay submitted that the petitions seeking CBI investigation into the Narada tapes were politically motivated.

He claimed that one of the petitioners, Amitabha Charaborti, was a Congress candidate for the 2016 Assembly polls in West Bengal.

Citing an affidavit by MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, the counsel, who himself is a Lok Sabha MP, submitted that she was not present in office on the day Samuel claimed that Rs 5 lakh was given to her as it was Bengali New Year day.

The matter would be taken up for hearing again on January 12.

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