FORMER Police Commissioner of Kolkata Rajeev Kumar today approached the Supreme Court seeking an extension of the seven-day protection from arrest which it had granted him on May 17, 2019 to enable him to approach a competent court for relief, if he was so advised.
In his application, Kumar said since he was unable to move for anticipatory bail in the lower court due to a lawyers’ strike in West Bengal, and the seven day interim protection should, therefore, commence after the end of the strike.
Kumar relied on a decision of a two-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising Justices Ashok Bhushan and K M Joseph on May 2, 2019, in which it had granted protection from arrest to an accused on the ground that there was lawyers’ strike in West Bengal and the high court was not functioning.
The application filed by Kumar was mentioned today before a vacation bench of the apex court, comprising Justices Indira Banerjee and Sanjiv Khanna which asked the counsel for the petitioner to approach the Registrar (Judicial) for the constitution of a three-judge bench, since the original order granting him protection from arrest was signed by a bench of similar strength.
A three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising the Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna had on May 17, 2019 withdrawn its interim protection from arrest and coercive action against the former Police Commissioner in connection with the alleged tampering of evidence in the case involving the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam.
The Supreme Court had, however, allowed interim protection from arrest to Rajeev Kumar for the next seven days beginning from May 17, 2019, to enable him to approach a competent court for relief. The court had also directed the CBI to act in accordance with the law.
The apex court in support of its direction relied on its decision in the famous A.R. Antulay v. R.S. Nayak and Another, (1988) 2 SCC 602, which mandated that the procedure established by law should be strictly complied with and should not be departed from to the disadvantage or detriment of any person.
The court had also clarified that it had not made any comments on the merits of the contentions, and the reasons recorded in its order would not be a ground to accept or reject the request of custodial interrogation or grant of protection if any such application/petition was moved.
The court had accepted the argument advanced by senior advocate Indira Jaising who appeared for Rajeev Kumar that under contempt proceedings, the court could not determine whether or not the former police commissioner should be arrested by the CBI for custodial interrogation.