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Saradha case: SC asks CBI to show proof of ex-Kolkata police chief suppressing evidence

Former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the CBI to show one shred of evidence from investigation records to prove that former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar was involved in the disappearance or suppression of crucial evidence, like call data records, to protect "the mighty" in connection with the Saradha Ponzi scam case.

The CBI has sought his custodial interrogation and claimed that he responded either evasively or arrogantly during an apex court-ordered questioning in Shillong recently. It said his arrest was required.

“We want you to satisfy us that he had a role to play in the disappearance or suppression of evidence. We have to be satisfied that your request for custodial interrogation is bona fide and not prompted by political considerations... Satisfy us that he had something to do, even vaguely, with the suppression of evidence and we order his arrest," Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi addressed Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta.

The CBI had been urging the court to lift its order of a stay passed on February 8 against any “coercive action” against Mr. Kumar. It had said his arrest was necessary to “unravel the entire gamut of the larger conspiracy in the ponzi scam cases.”

Senior advocate Indira Jaising, for Mr. Kumar, said the CBI had been given at least three occasions to produce proof showing the alleged link between Mr. Kumar and the suppression of evidence, if any. “But they have not so far... Now they want to improve on their case,” Ms. Jaising objected.

The Bench have the CBI time till May 1 to produce records to show Mr. Kumar's link.

The CJI said merely including claims in affidavits about Mr. Kumar's involvement was not enough, the proof had to be shown from the official records. “Do you have any affidavits from the case investigating officer that he got instructions [to suppress or conceal evidence] from him [Mr. Kumar]?”, he asked.

Mr. Mehta argued that Mr. Kumar was in charge of the day-to-day functioning of a Special Investigation Team appointed by the West Bengal government. It had, in the course of its probe, suspiciously handed back all the crucial evidence such as laptops, mobile phones seized from the accused.

“But you have to prove that this man [Mr. Kumar] had a role in the release of this material... Even the investigating officer could have released it,” the CJI said.

Seized diaries missing: Solicitor-General

Mr. Mehta said some seized diaries of the accused allegedly containing certain payment details to “big, big people” were missing. A blank had been drawn on the fate of these diaries. Mr. Kumar claimed ignorance about them.

“Again, what do you have to show that there is a direct link between this gentleman [Mr. Kumar] and the allegations,” the CJI asked. He further referred to the CBI's claim that Mr. Kumar gave “evasive answers” and so his custodial interrogation was necessary. “He is not the investigating officer, but an SIT member. You have to show he is directly involved in the suppression of evidence,” the CJI told Mr. Mehta.

Mr. Mehta said the CBI team was ambushed and attacked on the night of February 3 that saw a face-off between the CBI team and Kolkata Police outside the residence of Mr. Kumar. The CBI team had gone to question Mr. Kumar.

“The attack and ambush by the local police, the sudden dharna led by the Chief Minister, the dharna place becoming the Secretariat... What prompted all this? What was in the residence of Mr. Kumar which virtually led the Kolkata Police to attack the CBI?”, Mr. Mehta asked.

To this, the CJI responded, “If the CBI had some doubts there was something in his house, why did they not execute a search warrant?”

Kumar’s charge against BJP leaders

Mr. Kumar had claimed that the allegations against him in connection with the scam was part of a “larger conspiracy” by prominent BJP leaders Mukul Roy and Kailash Vijayvargiya.

Mr. Kumar said this in his response filed in the Supreme Court against a CBIplea for his arrest. The “sudden inexplicable turn” by the CBI; the pointing of finger at the SIT probe; and finally, the targeting of him, were “borne out of a larger conspiracy between Mr. Roy and Mr. Vijayvargiya”.

Mr. Kumar mentioned in the affidavit that there was an audio clip of BJP leaders speaking of targeting a “few senior police officers” of the State. He claimed that he had been bearing the brunt of defamatory statements made against him by Mr. Vijayvargiya. The allegations against him were not sourced from the probe of any investigation agency or from the courts, but from the utterances of a politician in a public gathering. This had raised doubts on the veracity and motive of the allegations, which “aggrieved and shocked” him.

On March 23, the apex court indicated that it cannot be expected to close its eyes if “some very, very serious matters” come to light. The court’s observation came after it perused the CBI’s status report on the examination of Mr. Kumar in Shillong.

What began as a contempt petition against the Chief Secretary of West Bengal, the Director General of Police and Mr. Kumar, for allegedly manhandling the CBI team on February 3, has now snowballed into the CBI levelling allegations that Mr. Kumar, as the functional head of the State government-appointed SIT, actively connived with the high-profile accused in the scam case to tamper crucial call data records (CDRs).

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Printable version | Mar 6, 2021 4:14:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/saradha-case-show-evidence-to-prove-ex-kolkata-police-chief-suppressed-evidence-sc-tells-cbi/article26990323.ece

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