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The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday arrested Trinamool Congress ministers, Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, sitting MLA Madan Mitra and former mayor Sovan Chatterjee, in connection with the Narada sting operation of 2016, but were granted bail by the CBI special court.
Early in the day, the ministers and leaders were picked up from their homes and taken to the CBI office at Nizam Palace in Kolkata.
Opposing the arrest, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee arrived at the scene and reportedly said MLAs cannot be arrested without the permission of the Speaker and the state government, and that the central agency would have to arrest her as well. Banerjee was there for about six hours.
Trinamool workers took to the streets to protest against the arrest; outside the CBI office, there were repeated clashes with central forces who were guarding it.
Trinamool leader Abhishek Banerjee urged everyone to abide by the law and tweeted: I urge everyone to abide by the law and refrain from any activity that violates lockdown norms for the sake of the larger interest of Bengal and its people. We have utmost faith in the judiciary & the battle will be fought legally.
The arrest comes days after Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar sanctioned the prosecution on the grounds that the four were holding the position of ministers in the West Bengal government at the time of the alleged incident.
A statement dated May 9, said that the Hon’ble Governor is the competent authority to accord sanction in terms of law as he happens to be the appointing authority for such ministers in terms of Article 164 of the Constitution.
The sanction was accorded on request by the CBI, which had made the entire documentation available to the Governor.
Reacting to the arrests, Mathew Samuel, the man behind the Narada tapes, said this was a fight against corruption, but wondered why Suvendu Adhikari was spared.
Trinamool Congress too raised this issue and dubbed the arrests as political vendetta after the party’s resounding victory in the recent assembly elections in West Bengal. The Trinamool Congress had bagged 213 seats and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was looking to dethrone the incumbent, bagged 77.
West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra tweeted: Utter violation of Democratic Norms & Federalist Polity by Modi-Shah controlled CBI, arresting 2 Bengal Ministers WITHOUT Assembly Speaker’s permission as per protocol. Political Vendetta after outright REJECTION by people of Bengal. Reveals Neo-Fascist mindset of BJP-SanghParivar
The Narada tapes had incidentally surfaced in 2016 just ahead of the assembly elections. The video footage showed several MPs and MLAs of the Trinamool Congress allegedly taking cash of Rs 4-5 lakh. However, it had no impact on poll results as the Trinamool Congress bagged 211 seats in the 294-West Bengal assembly. In 2017, the Calcutta High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the sting operation.