[dropcap]A[/dropcap] three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, comprising the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna today withdrew its interim protection from arrest and coercive action against former Police Commissioner of Kolkata Rajeev Kumar, IPS, in connection with the alleged tampering of evidence in the case involving the multi-crore rupee Saradha chit fund scam.
The Supreme Court has, however, allowed interim protection from arrest to Rajeev Kumar for the next seven days to enable him to approach a competent court for relief if so advised. The court has 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 in law should be strictly complied with and should not be departed from to the disadvantage or detriment of any person.
The court has also clarified that it has not made any comments on the merits of the contentions, and the reasons recorded in the present order would not be a ground to accept or reject the request of custodial interrogation or grant of protection, if any such application/petition is moved.
The court has accepted the argument advanced by senior advocate Indira Jaising who appeared for Rajeev Kumar that under the contempt proceedings, the court cannot determine whether or not the former police commissioner should be arrested by the CBI for custodial interrogation.
During the course of the hearing, Jaising had also submitted that till date, the CBI had been unable to establish Kumar’s criminal intent in suppressing evidence in the investigation. Yet they were seeking his custodial interrogation.
She had alleged malice on the part of the CBI against Rajeev Kumar because the latter had registered a case against the wife of the then interim CBI Director Nageshwar Rao who actually set the investigation agency after Kumar.
On February 5, 2019, the Supreme Court had directed the former Kolkata Police Commissioner to appear before the CBI and cooperate with the investigation. The Supreme Court had also made it clear that no coercive action including arrest would be made by the CBI. The court had also said a neutral place, Shillong would be where the CBI would question Rajeev Kumar.
Pursuant to the court’s order, Rajeev Kumar had undergone 44 hours of interrogation by the CBI in Shillong between Feb 9 to 13, 2019. However, the CBI on April 5, 2019, filed an application seeking a modification of the court’s order granting interim protection from arrest to Rajeev Kumar. The CBI had said custodial interrogation of Rajeev Kumar was necessary in view of his alleged non-cooperation and evasive replies to the CBI.
The present episode arose after a CBI team reached the Kolkata police commissioner’s residence in the night of February 3, 2019, to ‘examine’ him but was detained. The CBI was not carrying a search warrant.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had rushed to the commissioner’s house and after a marathon meeting with all senior police officials, announced a dharna against “the blatant use of central police agencies” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP National President Amit Shah to silence the opposition.
The Calcutta High Court had on December 6, 2018, put the summons issued against the police commissioner of Kolkata in abeyance. The same order was extended on the last date of hearing i.e. December 12, 2018. Yet the CBI attempted to barge into the residence of the police commissioner.
Appearing for the CBI, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta on February 4, 219 had submitted the following before a two-judge bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna:
- An unprecedented situation has arisen in the State.
- CBI officials were kept in captivity by the Kolkata Police
- Police Commissioner Kolkata Rajiv Kumar is a potential accused in the chit-fund scam case
- CBI apprehends destruction of electronic evidence. Despite four summons issued to Rajiv Kumar, he did not turn up before the CBI team.
- Police officials of West Bengal government are sitting on dharna with the Chief Minister.
- A direction to Rajiv Kumar, Police Commissioner, Kolkata to immediately surrender/make himself available before the CBI and to direct him to faithfully cooperate with the investigating agency namely CBI.
- CBI will also be moving a contempt petition against the West Bengal government
- Immediate hearing of the matter.
On the next date i.e. February 5, 2019, the court had granted interim protection from arrest to Rajeev Kumar, apart from issuing notice on the contempt petition filed by the CBI in the matter.
Read the Order