NEW DELHI The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to give an urgent hearing to CBI’s plea alleging destruction of electronic evidence related to the Saradha chit fund scam case by the Kolkata Police commissioner and said it will come down heavily on him if he “even remotely” tries to destroy the evidence.
The apex court said it will hear on Tuesday probe agency’s applications which alleged that an extraordinary situation has arisen in which the top police officials of the West Bengal Police are sitting on a dharna along with a political party in Kolkata.
The applications accusing Kolkata Police chief Rajeev Kumar of destroying evidence related to the case and indulging in contempt of court were mentioned by Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta before a bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjeev Khanna.
The bench declined the SG’s plea to hear the two applications on Monday in the post-lunch session.
It said during the interregnum it will be open for the SG or any other party to lay before the court any material or evidence to show that any West Bengal authority or police official is planning or trying to destroy evidence related to the case.
Taking strong note of Mehta’s submission, the bench said “if the police commissioner is even remotely trying to destroy evidence, we will come down so heavily on him that he will regret”.
The top court said all material or evidence and additional documents has to be placed before it by means of affidavit.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has been sitting on a dharna since 8.30pm Sunday. On Monday she described her sit-in over the CBI’s attempt to question Kolkata Police chief as a “non-political” protest.
At the outset, the SG said an “extraordinary situation” which has happened yesterday in which CBI officials were arrested in Kolkata and Jt Director, CBI and his family were kept hostage.
He said it was under this “extraordinary situation” that the CBI moved these applications apprhending destruction of electronic evidence.
He alleged that on Sunday night CBI officers were taken into custody by the West Bengal Police when they had gone to the Kolkata police commissioner’s residence for evidence in connection with the probe in the Saradha scam.
Mehta said not only were the sleuths arrested, but the residence of Joint Director (East) Pankaj Shrivastav was surrounded by the state police and his family was kept hostage.
Even the CBI office at the CGO complex in Kolkata was under siege, the law officer said.
When the SG was making the submissions, the bench asked him what was the position on Monday morning to which he replied that senior CBI officials have been released.
The joint director through teleconference told media channels about his house being laid under siege and the family being virtual hostage, the SG said.
He said there was a need for immediate order as the Kolkata Police commissioner, who has come under the lens of the CBI, is likely to destroy the electronic evidence and material related to the Saradha scam.
Mehta said that initially there was a discussion among the concerned officials in the CBI to moved the apex court last night itself but it was decided to wait till Monday morning.
The Commissioner of Police, Kolkata had not responded to the CBI’s repeated summons to join the investigation and “when our team reached to his residence, they were arrested,” he said.
When the bench said the CBI officials are no longer under the arrest, the SG replied that on a daily basis FIRs are being registered by the state police against the agency’s officials.
Mehta told the court that the agency had filed two interim applications. The first application seeks a direction from the apex court that the Kolkata Police chief should immediately surrender and should not tamper or destroy any evidence, he said.
The second application is about the contempt of court committed by the police commissioner as there was an apex court order to carry out the investigation into the case, Mehta said.
However, the bench said it will hear the matter on Tuesday morning.
After getting the indication that the apex court was not going to hear the matter Monday, the SG again said it was a case of an “extraordinary situation as the police commissioner is sitting on dharna with a political party.”
“Please take cognisance that people in uniform are sitting on dharna with a political party and hear the matter at 2 pm. The evidence which is in the electronic form will be destroyed,” said the solicitor general.
Taking note of his submissions the bench said, “if at all the evidence is destroyed, it is in electronic form and can be retrieved. “
The bench also said it has gone through the contempt application and there is nothing in it and there is nothing about destruction of evidence and that’s why the bench has sat five minutes late.
However, the solicitor general clarified that “when we drafted the interim applications yesterday, we did not had our records. It was under the seige of police. We got the records today only.”
At this moment, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for the West Bengal government tried to make some submissions opposing the CBI plea saying that a political witch-hunt is going on and this matter is going on for long.
“I (Kolkata Police Commissioner) am not an accused. The Calcutta High Court has passed an order in my favour,” he said.
However, the bench interrupted him and passed the order.
Hint at Presidents Rule
Rajnath warns of constitutional breakdown in Bengal
Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday said there may be a constitutional breakdown in West Bengal in the wake of the Kolkata Police-CBI face-off and asserted that the Centre had the power to take action.
Amid din in the Lok Sabha, Singh also termed as “unprecedented” the move to stop the CBI from performing its duty.
An all-out war broke out between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee government on Sunday over the CBI’s attempt to question the Kolkata Police commissioner in connection with chit fund scams.
Making a statement in Lok Sabha on the prevailing situation in Kolkata, Singh described the action against the CBI probe team, which went to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar, as “unprecedented” and a threat to the federal political system of the country.
“There may be constitutional breakdown in West Bengal… under the Constitution, the Central government has been vested with the power to maintain normalcy in any part of the country,” Singh said.
Earlier, opposition parties in Lok Sabha attacked the Narendra Modi government over the alleged misuse of Central agencies against political rivals, saying it was against democratic norms.
Members from the Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal, NCP and Samajwadi Party spoke against the CBI move to question the Kolkata Police chief.
A CPI(M) member said both the Trinamool Congress and the Modi government were at fault.
As soon as the Lok Sabha took up Zero Hour, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan allowed members to raise the issue.
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