Defiant in defeat, Mamata calls ruling on top cop a moral win

Chief Minister of India’s West Bengal state Mamata Banerjee suffered a big legal setback on Tuesday after the Supreme Court, above, directed a top cop she was trying to protect to cooperate with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in recovering cash looted from the poor by Sharada Group after its Ponzi scheme collapsed in 2013.

Later in the day, the federal home ministry asked Mamata’s government to initiate action against Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar for violating all India services conduct rules by joining her in the sit-in protest and acting in a way unbecoming of a civil servant.

To save her face, Mamata called the apex court order a moral victory for Kumar and her Trinamool Congress (TMC) since it said he will not be arrested and no coercive action will be taken against him.

The apex court was responding to petitions filed by CBI against Kumar and West Bengal government after five of their officers were blocked and briefly detained at Mamata’s behest when they went to Kumar’s residence on Sunday to question him over the Sharada case files in his possession.

Kumar, who headed the special investigation team to look into the Sharada scam in 2013, had been ignoring CBI’s summons directing him to hand over all documents linked to the case.

While some TMC leaders were arrested in the case, CBI suspected many more party leaders are involved. CBI’s suspicions were fortified after the state police arrested five of their officers.

Mamata, who played the victim card after the officers’ arrest by staging a sit-in protest from Sunday, lost her cool and threw her microphone when she was informed about the Supreme Court ruling.

She quickly collected herself and told the journalists gathered around her that the court ruling was a victory for democracy and the people.

She said Kumar never said he will not cooperate ignoring the fact that he had been skipping CBI’s summons. 

Mamata then launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Modi alleging that he was using federal agencies like CBI to harass non-BJP state governments. Soon after Mamata made this allegation, she ordered police to deny permission to BJP leaders Yogi Adityanath, Shivaraj Singh Chauhan and Shanawaz Hussian to hold separate rallies in the state on Tuesday.    

Mamata alleged Modi cannot play the big boss, he is trying to divide the Centre and the state and he should be removed from power to save the country.

She said other leaders will be consulted on whether to go ahead with the sit-in protest.

Earlier, the Supreme Court ordered Kumar to appear before the CBI at a neutral place, Shillong. It directed the chief secretary of West Bengal and the DGP to file their replies on or before Feb 18.

Appearing for the CBI, Attorney General KK Venugopal said there is complete breakdown of the constitutional machinery in West Bengal.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Kumar, alleged that the CBI’s action was meant to score points. The next hearing is on Feb 20.