The Supreme Court Tuesday directed Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to make himself available before the CBI and "faithfully" cooperate with the agency in investigation of cases arising out of the Saradha chit fund scam probe. The apex court said Kumar will appear before the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for investigation at Shillong in Meghalaya and no coercive steps, including the arrest of the Kolkata Police chief, will take place during the course of the probe.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi also issued a notice to Kumar and sought his response before February 20, the next date of hearing on the allegations by the CBI that he was tampering with electronic evidence and the SIT headed by him provided the agency with doctored materials. The apex court also directed the West Bengal chief secretary, the director general of police (DGP) and the Kolkata Police commissioner to file replies on the contempt pleas filed against them by the CBI on or before February 18.
The bench, also comprising justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna, said on the consideration of replies of the chief secretary, the DGP and the Kolkata police commissioner, the court might prefer the personal appearance of these three authorities on February 20. The apex court's secretary general will inform them on February 19 whether they are required to be present before the apex court on February 20, the bench said.
During the hearing, which lasted for about 15 minutes, Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta narrated the sequence of events of the Saradha scam case since 2014 . They alleged that Kumar was not cooperating in the investigation of the cases arising out of the chit fund scam, which was handed over to the CBI by the Supreme Court.
The Special Investigation Team (SIT) of the West Bengal police, of which Kumar was the functional head, was not handing over the complete documents over to the CBI and some of the documents given by the SIT were doctored, Mehta and Venugopal alleged. The CBI has alleged that the state SIT had not given the complete call data details and there was serious omission or commission wilfully done by the SIT.
"What was given to us were doctored copy of call records," the AG said, mentioning "the chit fund scam concerning the Rose Valley case was a case of cheating, involving Rs 15, 000 crores.". While he was making submissions, the bench proposed to pass an order that it will direct Kumar to make himself available for the investigation. "No reason why he will not make himself available for the investigation," the bench said. However, when Venugopal said the CBI has also filed a contemp petition against the Kolkata police chief, the bench said any order can be passed only after examining the replies of the parties.
"We will examine whether there is commission of contempt or not. We have to examine. The other side has to be heard," the bench said. The AG also narrated the incident of detention of CBI officials who reached Kolkata Police chief's residence on Sunday for questioning him. Venugopal said 25 CBI officials were bundled into a bus and taken to the police station, and even joint director of CBI Vikas Shrivastav's house was under seige of the West Bengal police. He said the entire family of Shrivastav kept themselves locked in the house while the personnel of the state police were banging their doors.
Such a stand taken by the West Bengal government manifests that there is total breakdown of constitutional mechanism and there will be serious repercussion if such happenings continues, the AG said. However, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the West Bengal police, opposed the allegations of the CBI, saying it is an attempt to harass and humiliate the Kolkata police commissioner.
He even tried to point out an order of the apex court in which he said the role of the SIT was appreciated and it was clearly stated that the probe in the chit fund cases can be transferred to the CBI because it involved multi state operations. Singhvi said till now no FIR has been lodged against Kumar and he has not even been made an accused in any of the cases arising out of the chit fund scam.
The Kolkata police commissioner was served notice three times and there was an intervention of the Calcutta High Court so he has not appeared before the CBI, he said Referring to the events of Sunday when the CBI officials had go to Kumar's residence in connection with the probe, Singhvi said such a step against the Kolkata police chief was taken after a gap of three years.
The Sunday events took place two days after a political rally in the state, he said. The West Bengal Police and Kumar are fully cooperating with the agency and the DGP had written five letters to the CBI in connection with the probe, he claimed. Kumar has also conveyed to the CBI that the agency's officials can come to his office anytime or they can meet him at any of the central places in the city, Singhvi said. He said there was no destruction of evidence which the CBI is claiming after five years of investigation.
"Where is the destruction of evidence after five years. After five years no FIR against Kumar for destruction of evidence under section 201 has been submitted," Singhvi said. However, the bench interrupted and told him that it has already made a proposal that the Kolkata police commissioner will have to join the investigation.
(With inputs from agencies.)