Kolkata: The acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court on Friday constituted a five-member bench to hear the interim bail plea of four Trinamool Congress heavyweights in West Bengal, who were arrested on Monday by the CBI in the Narada sting operation case.
The case will come up for hearing on May 24.
The state has been witnessing high drama since Monday morning after CBI sleuths arrested two Trinamool Congress ministers — Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee – along with present MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata Corporation Mayor Sovon Chattopadhyay in connection with the Narada sting tapes cases, in which several politicians and a high-ranked police officer were allegedly found accepting cash for providing unofficial favours to a fictitious company.
While a lower court granted interim bail to all the four Trinamool leaders on Monday evening, the Calcutta High Court put a stay on the order late on the same night.
In an order issued by the court on Friday, it has been said that a five-member bench has been constituted that includes acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal, and justices I.P. Mukerji, Harish Tandon, Soumen Sen and Arijit Banerjee.
The larger bench was formed after the division bench comprising Bindal and Banerjee had a difference of opinion on the judgement pertaining to the interim bail to the heavyweight leaders.
Earlier in the day, the difference of opinion cropped up when Justice Banerjee granted interim bail to the four arrested, but acting Chief Justice Bindal differed and said they must be kept under house arrest.
According to the rule, the interim-bail issue has been referred to a larger bench in view of the difference of opinion.
There were several twists and turns in the case that started on Monday when the CBI arrested four heavyweights in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation case.
A virtual hearing was held on Monday at the Bankshall court in Kolkata over the arrests. The accused were virtually produced before the court from Nizam Palace.
The arrests attracted huge controversy as Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee went to the CBI office and demanded unconditional release of the arrested persons.
Trinamool supporters also gathered the CBI office and protested against the arrests. They even pelted stones and scuffled with the central forces, leading to a serious breakdown of the law-and-order situation in the area.
The Bankshall court had granted bail to the four Trinamool leaders. However, the Calcutta High court stayed the order soon after as CBI challenged it while stating that they are unable to work properly and that their investigation is getting affected.
The case was heard by the division bench on Wednesday but as it remained inconclusive, it was again heard on Friday. The CBI has made Chief Minister Banerjee, Law Minister Moloy Ghatak and Trinamool MP Kalyan Banerjee parties to the case.
Pressing for the interim bail, defence lawyer Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, “Difference of opinion should lead to liberty. The bench should be constituted on Friday itself.”
Referring to Firhad Hakim, Singhvi added, “The person is a minister and is responsible for handling the Covid situation in the city as well as in the state. In this condition, the minister should be given access to meet the officials and handle files regarding Covid related work.”
Responding to the plea, the bench said that the arrested persons can access files and meet officials, but only through video conference and they are allowed to continue with the work they are doing. The bench, however, refused the request of CBI’s plea on the stay of the order.