On the evening of 3rd February,West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sat on a dharna to protest against what she termed as an ‘attack on federalism’. This turn of events took place when the CBI officials were detained in Kolkata by the police. They were denied entry into the residence of Kolkata’s Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar last night. The police did not only deny the CBI entry into the Commissioner’s house but also detained them for a short while. They claimed that the CBI did not have a search warrant and that the questioning was meant to be a secret operation.
What is the actual issue?
The problem started when the CBI came in front of the Police Commissioner’s residence to question him with regard to the chit scam funds. The State Government took offence to the attempt of questioning the top cop of Kolkata. Due to such unnecessary interventions, the CBI in fact had to petition in the Supreme Court. They filed a petition seeking initiation of contempt of Court proceedings against officials of the state government and the police. This was done in the light of them obstructing the Supreme Court directed probe into the chit fund scam. Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General, will appear on behalf of the central government in the Supreme Court. Therefore, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday to give an urgent hearing to the applications which were moved by the CBI.
As there is alleged destruction of electronic evidence related to the Saradha chit fund scam case by the Police Commissioner of Kolkata, the Court will perform the hearing of CBI’s applications on Tuesday. Top cop, Police Commissioner of Kolkata Rajeev Kumar is accused of destroying the evidence of the scam related to him. Apart from destruction of evidence, he has also been accused of indulging in contempt of court. The Supreme Court has demanded that all evidence to be placed in front of them are to be done in the form of an affidavit. The bench of the Supreme Court has also stated that if any evidence is produced against the West Bengal Government or the Police Commissioner of Kolkata in the chit fund scam case, the Court will come down on them so heavily that they will regret it.
Is it an attack on federalism
Due to what Mamata Banerjee calls an attack on Federalism, she has declared to sit on an indefinite dharna. “They may not like me but this is an attack on Federalism. I will sit on dharna because I want to protect the constitution.This is a situation worse than Emergency” stated Mamata Banerjee in a press meeting. All India Trinamool Congress and its key leaders gathered together for a protest and demonstration against the central government. The party was supported by 14 other political parties in their protest against the central government. One of the Trinamool Congress government leaders stated in a press meet that the ‘puppeteers’ of this act are none other than Modi, Amit Shah and Ajit Doval. Leaders like Tejashwi Yadav have also lent their support to Mamta Banerjee in this hour.
The Central Bureau of Investigation derives its power from the Delhi Special Establishment Act,1946. This gives CBI enough functional autonomy to operate without being swayed much by the political influence of the government. The High Courts and the Supreme Court have the jurisdiction to order a CBI investigation regarding an offence against any state without the permission of the state. As a matter of fact, the act of detaining the CBI by the police of the state is more of an offence against federalism. In this case, CBI has the full right to conduct investigations against government without their permission. This is so because the order of investigation was issued by the SC.
Is there real dirt on Didi?
The State Government has attributed this action to the central government and has termed this as ‘political vendetta’. Senior leader of Trinamool Congress Derek O’Brien even called this an attempt at a ‘constitutional coup’. The Interim CBI Director even issued statements stating that they were “simply conducting investigations as per the directions of the Supreme Court. As per Section 165 no search warrant is required”. It was earlier stated that the Police Commissioner was not in his residence at the time when the CBI reached for probe. However, the police commissioner was spotted coming out of his house a little while after Banerjee had called for a press meet. He later even visited Banerjee in the ground where she sat down for a Dharna. Mamta Banerjee has in fact called out to other Opposition party leaders to join her for the Dharna against the Modi Government.
However, what is suspicious in the matter is that if there was nothing worth hiding from the CBI, the investigation would have been allowed to take place unhindered. However, causing such high profile drama and creating obstacle in a fair act of investigation does draw the attention towards their cause of creating such an issue out of the matter. Considering the innocence of the police commissioner, the investigation should have been cooperated with by the Kolkata police as there would have been nothing to hide or conceal. Through this act, an arbitrary suspicion is raised towards either the mishandling of facts or the concealment of certain facts.
After SC hearing Mamata declares ‘moral victory’
The case filed against the government of West Bengal and the Kolkata Police is because they have tried to put obstacles in the SC demanded probe in more than one ways. The sleuths of CBI were arrested by the Kolkata Police. Even the residence of the Joint Director of the CBI in East, Pankaj Shrivastav, was surrounded by cops and his family was held hostage. The CBI complex at CGO in Kolkata was also reportedly under siege. In fact the joint director through tele-conference told media outlets about his house being laid under siege and his family being held as virtual hostages. The Solicitor General also pointed out another reason why the matter must be looked into as soon as possible by the Supreme Court. This is in order to prevent any destruction of documents or evidence of the chit fund scam by the Police Commissioner.
The Solicitor General even stated that the Police Commissioner of Kolkata did not respond to several requests made to him by the CBI to join them in the investigation. Therefore, the next best step which the CBI could take was to decide and pay him a visit in his residence before he can destroy the documents related to the scam.
Due to such chaos, a case had been filed against the government of West Bengal by the CBI. However, in its hearing on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled out the arrest of the Kolkata Police Commissioner. Mamata declared this statement by the bench of the Supreme Court as a moral victory for her party and the Kolkata Police.
Has it opened doors for President’s rule?
A slightly similar situation had occurred in the state of Uttar Pradesh during the government of Akhilesh Yadav in the State. As the political machinery of the State had broken down, the governor decided on calling for President’s rule. In a bid for the Samajwadi to not lose power in the state, the administration fell one step short of calling for President’s Rule.
However, the BJP has demanded its imposition in the state of West Bengal. After the demonstration made by the Trinamool Congress and headed by Didi, BJP termed the situation as ‘constitutional crisis’. In a post by Union Minister Supriyo Babul, it was stated that this is a constitutional crisis ‘created’ by Mamata Banerjee. They even accused Didi of providing shelter to ‘corrupt and tainted accomplices’. Her rule in West Bengal has even termed has also been termed as ‘dictatorship’ as she has been instrumental in ‘suppressing’ investigations.
Is Dharna the new cool?
Moreover, going beyond all that the West Bengal has been accused of, the practice of sitting on a dharna in order to suppress an investigation is highly unacceptable. A Dharna can possibly not be the solution for all problems, especially if one holds power herself and is capable of working constitutionally to solve the problem. Not only has this Dharna been instrumental in hindering an act as objective and as constitutional as a simple CBI investigation. It has also raised raised fair doubts among people that if the government of the state is in itself not in a position to take a constitutional administrative action, then the situation of the people should be far worse. The reason why they have been elected to a post is not to perform Dharnas in order to fulfil a demand. But rather take an wiser course of action in order to place their demands before the Central Government.
What one can only hope for now is that the CBI investigation does not suffer a heavy setback due to a possible destruction of evidences or fabrication of facts or any details.