Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Violation of norms

The high-voltage drama in West Bengal which does not enhance the prestige of the nation could have been avoided. It had all the ingredients of under-mining democracy, federalism and hampering credibility of institutions. Worst of all, it showcased the might of the central government and abuse of its powers to nail a political adversary in West Bengal, whose strength and vitality is a threat to the BJP in West Bengal and more than that whose ability to bring all of opposition on one platform was successfully showcased in the recent Kolkata rally. The political motive behind the drama is unmistakable. That it comes on the election eve in a bid to target and embarrass Trinamool Congress is an obvious inference to be drawn from the recent development in West Bengal. Neither Mamata Banerjee or her Trinamool Congress is above the board. The Sarada chit fund scam, alleged to have robbed ordinary people of their money, and indicting some of the powerful TMC leaders surfaced years ago. The case was handed over to the CBI after a Supreme Court ruling in 2014. Ever since, other than the occasional eruption of the issue, primarily at some election involving West Bengal, the investigations have not made much headway. More importantly, two of the main accused – the ex-TMC vice-president Mukul Roy and Assam minister Himanta Biswa Sharma – joined the BJP during the probe and found the CBI pressure easing on them. Needless to point out that the lid on the Sarada scam was blown up by another TMC MP, who was arrested in 2013 in a complaint filed by Sarada company. The messy dealings of the company merit a probe. The main investigation agency spent the last four years without focusing on that aspect and failed to grill the main accused and instead turned the heat on West Bengal police chief, a clear case of missing the trees for the woods. It is preposterous to believe that Trinamool government would be using all its might to cover up for the deeds of two tainted politicians who are now BJP members, unless there are other dimensions of the case that are still hidden from public gaze. A fair probe by CBI could have shed light on that. Instead, the CBI, obviously at the behest of the central government, used this time just before the elections to create a drama, while throwing all norms to winds. It is unbecoming of the CBI to treat the police chief, who is a witness in the case, as an accused or to raid and interrogate him without serving proper notices. While the prime accused are being treated with kids gloves, a man who investigated the case as part of the Special Investigating Team in 2013 when the Sarada chit fund came to light is being projected as an accused. The malafide intentions behind accusing the police chief of criminal intent are manifested by the failure of the CBI to furnish evidence of any botch-up by police chief Rajeev Kumar as prime investigator in Sarada chit fund scam in 2013. The move thus violates CBI’s rules and ethics of investigation. At the same time, it tends to dent the already fragile centre-state relations and weakens the federal spirit of the country. In this respect, West Bengal chief minister has shown immense spine to challenge the might of the Centre by standing up for the autonomy of her state. The Supreme Court has done well to make it clear that while the West Bengal police chief can be questioned, in a neutral space, he cannot be victimized or treated like a criminal. While co-operation in the CBI probe in Sarada scam must come from all quarters, it is the responsibility of the Centre to both restore the credibility of the investigating institution and ensure that the process is transparent and follow proper procedures without any witch-hunting and without serving petty political goals of anyone. Instead, the central government has ended up demonstrating the extent it can go to subvert and destroy the credibility of the CBI for any political purpose including vendetta.