The Supreme Court Tuesday directed Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to appear before the CBI and "faithfully" cooperate into the investigation of cases arising out of the Saradha chit fund scam, while it making it clear that he will not be arrested. The apex court said that "to avoid all unnecessary controversy", it is also directing the Commissioner of Police to appear before the investigating agency at a neutral place in Shillong, Meghalaya, on such dates as may be fixed by the probe agency.
While observing that there is "no reason why he (Kumar) will not make himself available for the investigation," a bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said, "We make it clear that no coercive steps including arrest shall be taken against the Commissioner of Police". The apex court, which on Monday had taken strong note of allegations of tampering with evidence in the Saradha scam by saying that "if the police commissioner is even remotely trying to destroy evidence, we will come down so heavily on him that he will regret", on Tuesday expressed confidence that he will "faithfully cooperate with the investigating agency at all times."
When senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for the West Bengal Police, was opposing the order, the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjeev Khanna, asked "we do not understand why you are opposed to Kolkata Police commissioner's appearance for questioning before CBI?" The bench also directed the West Bengal chief secretary, the director general of police (DGP) and the Kolkata Police Commissioner to file replies to the statements made in the contempt petition filed against them by the CBI on or before February 18.
It said on the consideration of their replies the court might prefer personal presence of these three officers on February 20. The 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.
"We will examine whether there is commission of contempt or not. We have to examine. The other side has to be heard," the bench observed. During the hearing, which lasted for about 15 minutes, Attorney General (AG) K K Venugopal and Solicitor General Tushar Mehta alleged that Kumar was not cooperating in the investigation of the chit fund cases 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 to the CBI and some of those given by the SIT were doctored, Venugopal and Mehta alleged, adding that 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 attorney general said, mentioning "the chit fund scam concerning the Rose Valley case was a case of cheating, involving Rs 15,000 crore."
Venugopal and Mehta said 25 CBI officials who reached Kolkata Police chief's residence on Sunday for questioning him 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 and his family kept themselves locked while the police personnel were banging their doors. Such a stand taken by the West Bengal government manifests that there is a total breakdown of constitutional machinery and there will be serious repercussion if such happenings continues, the Attorney General said.
However, Singhvi opposed the CBI, saying it is an attempt to harass and humiliate the Kolkata Police Commissioner and was meant to score points as the Sunday events took place two days after a political rally in the state. 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 chit fund cases. Kumar 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 Sunday events when the CBI officials had gone 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 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, adding that 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 of IPC has been lodged" Singhvi said and argued "if you (CBI) are prepared to come on Sunday, two days after a political rally, why can't you go to Calcutta High Court for clarifications. The matter should ultimately go to high court."
However, Mehta said how can West Bengal police justify the illegal confinement of CBI officials who were taken into the custody of the city police which has been foisting cases against officials of CBI for sending notice to Kumar.