Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar is a “potential accused” in the investigation into chit fund scams in Bengal, the Union government told the Supreme Court today in a flashpoint with the Mamata Banerjee government in the state.
“There are some extraordinary circumstances. The CBI Joint Director was held hostage at CBI office yesterday. We apprehend that electronic evidence might be destroyed,” the centre’s lawyer Tushar Mehta, Solicitor General of India, told the Supreme Court a morning after Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee launched her protest over CBI officers trying to question her police chief.
The government asked the court to order Rajeev Kumar to surrender all the evidence he had, expressing the worry that he may try to destroy electronic evidence.
Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said there is “no evidence that Kolkata police is destroying evidence” and added: “Lay down evidence and we will come down so heavily that he will regret it.”
The Supreme Court will take up the petition tomorrow.
Appearing for West Bengal government, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi told the Supreme Court that it is witch hunt by the CBI as the Kolkata police chief is a witness and not an accused in the case.
But, the bench told him to keep ready the defences of state government ready tomorrow, when it will hear the case.
Sunday’s unprecedented showdown between Kolkata Police and the CBI started at around 5pm when the federal anti-corruption agency’s team reached the residence of city police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, said officials familiar with the development.
And in retaliation against the action by the Central Bureau of Investigation at Kumar’s residence, Kolkata Police also sent its teams at the offices of the agency in the city and the residence of CBI’s West Bengal unit chief Pankaj Srivastava forcing him to lock himself up for more than three hours. Shrivastava apprehended his arrest by the city police, added officials.
“The Supreme Court had asked CBI in May 2014 to probe all the chit fund scams and look into the larger conspiracy in the matter. The CBI suspected that Kolkata Police and West Bengal government were deliberately delaying the investigation. Rajeev Kumar headed the special investigation team (SIT) of West Bengal police when it was probing the chit fund scams of the state before the top court asked the CBI to step in,” a central government official, who is familiar with the developments, said.
“The CBI officials alleged that Kumar was not handing them over material evidence in the case like laptops, mobile and phones and documents the SIT picked up during its investigation and thus creating hurdles in the agency’s probe,” the official said.
He added the CBI had sent several summons to Kumar, directly as well as through the state police chief and the WB government, in the last two years but he kept evading and the situation reached to the boiling point on Sunday.
A second person, a witness to the chaos in Kolkata, said as the CBI team reached Kumar’s house to question him and if necessary, arrest him, it was confronted by the guards deployed there.
The guards asked the CBI team to go to the local police station instead but when they said they had come to see Kumar, they were taken to the Shakespeare Sarani police station.
“In a tit for tat scenario, armed teams of Kolkata Police reached the CBI offices in Nizam Palace and CGO Complex by 6pm. The CBI officers alleged that the city police teams laid a siege of the CBI offices and didn’t allow anyone to go in or outside the offices,” said the second person, who was a witness to what was happening at Srivastava’s house.
The CBI agency under Union government says the West Bengal government is trying to block investigations ordered by the Supreme Court.
The CBI’s interim boss, M Nageswara Rao, whom congress alleged has not appointed by the 3 member panel the CBI’s interim boss, M Nageswara Rao, had said yesterday: “Did we commit any crime?”
Mamata Banerjee held a press meet in the evening at Rajeev Kumar’s home and alleged a “complete constitutional breakdown”. She lashed out at the centre for misusing the central agencies and demanded to know how they could come to a police commissioner’s home “without a warrant”.