Five-member bench adjourns hearing of Narada case till May 26

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Kolkata, May 24 (IANS) The five-member division bench of the Calcutta High Court constituted by Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal for the hearing of the bail petition of the heavyweight leaders on Monday adjourned the hearing till May 26.

The larger bench was constituted after there was split judgement by a two-member division bench of Bindal and Arijit Banerjee.

The larger bench comprising ACJ Rajesh Bindal, Justices Harish Tandon, IP Mukerji, Arijit Banerjee and Soumen Sen after a two-hour long hearing on the issues to be formulated in the case from both the CBI and the defence council decided to adjourn the case till Wednesday.

Justice IP Mukerji observed that one of the issues is that if the accused have not been arrested during investigation for over 7 years, what is the occasion for arrest suddenly after filing the charge-sheet?

If the power of arrest has not been exercised for over 7 years, why should they be arrested suddenly now? This is one of the issues,” the Judge said.

Justice Soumen Sen said another issue is whether the bail already granted can be stayed while exercising powers of transfer under Section 407 CrPC.

The Bench also pointed out that the CBI’s application before the High Court was “skeletal” and one of the issues is whether the High Court can stay the bail order without notice in an application under section 407 CrPC, when there is no application seeking cancellation.

The third issue would be, he said, whether the Division Bench could have considered the matter, when bail and transfer are before the single bench as per roster.

When Solicitor General Tushar Mehta made his submission in favour of CBI, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Advocate General Kishore Dutta and Siddhartha Luthra for the arrest.

The matter came up to the larger bench after, on May 21, there was a difference of opinion between the two judges of the division bench Rajesh Bindal and Arijit Banerjee regarding the bail of the four arrested. When Bindal wanted ‘house arrest’ of the arrested, Banerjee gave his verdict in favour of an interim bail.

Accordingly, for the time being, the accused were directed to be kept under house arrest and were permitted to access les, meet officials through video-conferencing so as to allow them to discharge their functions.

The high-profile case started when CBI arrested four heavyweight leaders including two cabinet ministers- Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, former minister and MLA Madan Mitra and ex-mayor Sovon Chatterjee for their involvement in Narada bribe case. The arrests attracted widespread protests by the Trinamool congress supporters including a six hours dharna by chief minister Mamata Banerjee at the CBI office in Nizam Palace.

The arrested had a paper production and in a virtual hearing the four arrested were granted bail by the Special CBI Court. In a dramatic turn the CBI moved the High Court on the same day and the division bench stayed the bail granted by the lower court.

The bench passed the stay order after a dramatic late-night hearing held on the basis of a letter sent by the CBI seeking transfer of the case to the High Court citing “unprecedented mob pressure” exerted on the lower court by the mass protests led by Chief Minister and the Law Minister against the arrests of the TMC leaders.

The next day, the TMC leaders led applications seeking recall of the stay order on the ground that it was passed without issuing notice to them. The division bench was not unanimous in their opinion and that led to the formation of the larger bench. The bench will again hear the case on Wednesday.