Updated: Feb 20, 2022
Written by: Mayank Raghuvanshi
Four ministers namely Firhad Hakim, TMC MLA Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee, and former Kolkata Mayor SovanChattopadhyay's arrest by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on May 17 brought Narada bribery case into the spotlight again.
The action comes only days after Governor JagdeepDhankhar granted the CBI permission to file a charge sheet against the four accused and approved prosecution against them.
The leaders were accused of corruption after a sting operation conducted by Mathew Samuel, a former managing editor of Indian magazine 'Tehelka'. The sting operation was conducted in 2014 and was supposed to be published in Tehelka magazine, But later before the 2016 Bengal state assembly polls, it was published in a 'Narada News' in the public domain.
WHAT IS NARADA CASE?
The Narada sting operation was conducted by Mathew Samuel (CEO of Narada News agency) for over two years in Bengal. It's was conducted in 2014 for 'Tehelka' magazine's investigative journals. But its reports were published on March 14 in a private news agency 'Narada news' (owned by Mathew Samuel) in 2016 before Bengal state assembly election polls. Mathew Samuel formerly worked as a managing editor of Tehelka magazine.
As a part of the operation, Mathew pretended to be the owner of a fictitious consultancy firm "Impex consultancy solution" with the help of his friend he managed to get an Aadhar card in the name of Santosh Shankaran and managed to create a fake profile on social media. He approached many local officials, TMC leaders, MPs asking them favor in return for the money.
In the video footage and photography of more than 52hrs Mathew and his colleague Angel Abraham, has captured 12 TMC ministers which included then TMC MPs and cabinet ministers, Mukul Roy, Subrata Mukherjee, Sultan Ahmed (passed away in 2017), Sugata Roy, SuvenduAdhikari, Kakoli Ghosh Dastikar, Prasoon Banerjee, Madan Mitra, Iqbal Ahmed, and Firhad Hakim, Suvon Chatterjee was caught on camera purportedly taking bribes in form of cash for extending unofficial favors for Impex Consultancy solution. A senior police officer MH Ahmed Mirza (now suspended), who claimed to be the key person who raised funds for the party, was also seen accepting money. TMC leader Shanku Deb Panda was seen asking for shares in Impex consultancy solutions in exchange for promised favors. Although Mukul Roy who is presently national vice president of BJP wasn't seen accepting the bribe in cameras but was seen asking Mathew Samuel to visit his party office with the promised amount in cash. Mukul Roy was one of the founding members of TMC, but later he resigned and joined BJP. Many leaders along with Mukul Roy have changed their political party from Trinamool Congress to Bhartiya Janta Party.
The second video of the sting operation on TMC leaders accepting cash was released late on 21st March 2017. Narada News has released two additional sting operation films; the new records feature SankudebPonda, former president of the TMC's student wing, and AparupaPoddar, a party MP.
The CBI was ordered to a preliminary probe in this case by Calcutta High court in 2017. A divisional bench comprised of chief justice NishitaMhatre and Justice Tapabrata Chakraborty issued its decision while hearing three different public interest litigations brought before it requesting an independent investigation into the sting operation. Given that a senior Bengal police officer was also caught up in the trap, there was an indication that during the case's hearing that the court may refer the matter to a central agency. The video footage was also forwarded to the Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL) for an authentication test. It was discovered to be real and not doctored, as the Trinamool Congress claimed. In response to the high court judgment, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee stated that the state administration would appeal to the Supreme Court.
FUNDING FOR STING OPERATION
In an interview with outlook media Samuel stated that the funding of the operation was done by K.D Singh, an Indian businessman turned politician and an MP, Rajya Sabha representing All India Trinamool Congress. He said that KD Singh has given 80 lakh INR for the operation. He further told that initially the budget was 25 lakh INR but later due to the involvement of so many politicians the budget was increased to 80 lakh INR.
TMC’s REACTION ON ACCUSATION OF THE LEADERS
The ruling Trinamool Congress first denied any involvement with the sting operation, claiming that it was the result of a political conspiracy and that the films were faked. CM Mamata Banerjee described it as a smear campaign by the opposition motivated by revenge politics. "Everyone knows that the sting was published from the BJP office. We are going to the higher court against the Calcutta High Court order"; "We accept and welcome the verdict of the High Court. But it is much unfortunate that the court does not allow us to do our investigation," Mamta Banerjee said to the media. Later, the TMC stated that the funds were received as a charity. After the arrest of the leaders and the ministers, the TMC supporters have gathered and started the protest outside of the CBI's office in Kolkata. The Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) organized large-scale rallies calling for the dismissal of the politicians engaged in the fraud.
Besides CBI's probe State Government of West Bengal has initiated their investigation in the case and they have booked Mathew Samuel under multiple sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), section 469which states the principle of Forgery for purpose of harming reputation. Section 499 (defamation), Section 120(B) criminal conspiracy.On 16 April 2017, the CBI on the orders of the High court filled an FIR against 12 TMC leaders. CBI booked leaders under Section 120(B) of IPC for criminal conspiracy and Section 13(2), Section 13 (1D), and Section 7of Prevention of Corruption Act.
The CBI was ordered by Calcutta high court to scrutinize the case. The arrest of the accused leaders was made on Monday i.e. 17th May, and on the same day, a special court of CBI in Kolkata headed by special CBI judge AnupamMukerjee had granted them interim bail and ordered them to physically appear before the court on June 4, 2021. But in a hearing on the 19th of May, the Calcutta High Court issued a stay order on the bail of the four accused leaders of AITMC (All India Trinamool Congress). 
Later on May 28th, a five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court headed by acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal granted interim bail to the four leaders.
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