Lawyer and Congress leader Koustav Bagchi accused Chidambaram of acting as “an agent” of the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) at a time when party workers were struggling against TMC’s “atrocities”.

A woman lawyer constantly shouted “go back” and waved her black gown at Chidambaram while he tried to locate his car in the parking lot outside the high court.

The case pertains to the 2017 sale of the West Bengal government’s entire 47% stake in Metro Dairy to Keventer Agro Ltd, the project’s sole private partner which, a short while later, transferred 15 % of its shares to a Singapore-based firm for a much higher price. 

This is the only disinvestment made by the Mamata Banerjee government since 2011, when the Trinamool Congress (TMC) first came to power.

Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury filed the petition in 2018, demanding a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into what he alleged to be a scam.

Chowdhury’s petition says that in August 2017 the state cabinet approved the sale of the government’s entire 47% stake in Metro Dairy Ltd to Keventer Agro Ltd, which was the only bidder, for around ₹85 crore.

Keventer sold 15% of its shares to a Singapore-based company for around ₹135 crore after a few weeks of becoming the company’s sole owner. 

Chowdhury alleged in his petition that the government, which had set up the company with public money, suffered a loss of at least ₹500 crore by selling its stakes to Keventer at a very low price.

When the PIL was heard by the division bench of chief justice Prakash Shrivastava and justice Indra Prasanna Mukerji on September 7 last year, CBI told the court that it can probe the sale of shares if the bench passes an order.

Chidambaram came to the high court to represent Keventer Agro Ltd and sought dismissal of the PIL.

When Chidambaram was leaving the court premises, a group of lawyers affiliated to the Congress started shouting slogans at him, calling him “an agent” of the TMC.

The case has been heard several times in five years. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) started an investigation in 2019 and questioned officials of Keventer Agro Ltd. and at least four Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officers working for the state government.

Metro Dairy was established in 1991 as a public-private venture. The West Bengal Milk Producers Federation had 47 % shares, the Centre-run National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) had 10% shares and the remaining 43% was owned by Keventer Agro Ltd. NDDB later sold its entire stake to Keventer.

TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “The TMC has nothing to say about a court case. Today’s incident is an internal matter of the Congress.”