A larger bench of the Calcutta High Court has granted interim bail to the three TMC leaders and one former party member in the Narada bribery case. The four leaders include two Bengal ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, TMC MLA Madan Mitra and former TMC member Shovan Chatterjee. The four leaders were placed under house arrest and arrested by the CBI on May 17.
The five-judge Bench of Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, Justices IP Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee granted interim bail while the other issues related to the case remain pending.
The court said the interim bail is only valid till the bench gives a final order in this case. The five-judge bench granted interim bail on the condition of a personal bond of Rs 2 lakh and two sureties. The court asked them not to speak to the media on the case and issues relating to the case.
The CBI had opposed the bail and even house arrest for the accused. The court allowed the CBI to further interrogate the accused but without physically summoning them. The court said that the CBI may carry forward the investigations via video conferencing.
Earlier, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta opposed the grant of interim bail contending that the four leaders are influential enough to affect the probe.
“This probe started in 2017. They were not arrested then and probe was completed without arresting them. Why do you think they need to be arrested now and prevented from discharging their public duties?” Bar and Bench quoted Justice IP Mukherjee as saying.
A Division Bench of the Calcutta High Court had differed on the question of interim bail to the leaders, referring the matter to be placed before the five Judge Bench.
The Narada bribery case pertains to a sting operation conducted by a journalist in which some TMC leaders were caught on camera accepting bribes. The journalist met them in 2014 posing as a businessman planning to invest in Bengal and gave cash to 7 TMC MPs, four ministers, one MLA and a police officer. The entire incident was recorded on camera and the videos were released just before the 2016 West Bengal assembly elections.