Question, but don’t arrest Kolkata police chief: SC to CBI

Hours after the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to make himself “available” to the CBI for questioning in the chit fund scam cases, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee called off her dharna. The court, however, barred the CBI from taking any coercive steps, including arrest, against Mr. Kumar. Ms. Banerjee ended her nearly 48-hour dharna against the BJP’s “political vendetta” in the presence of Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu, who said civil and police officers must report to the Chief Minister of a State. Several other Opposition leaders have supported the Trinamool Congress leader. In Delhi, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi, heading a three-judge Bench, said, “We direct Rajeev Kumar to appear and make himself available to the CBI and faithfully co-operate with the CBI at all times… No coercive steps, including arrest, should be taken against the Kolkata Police Commissioner.” The court went the extra mile to avoid any “unnecessary controversy” by scheduling the meeting between Mr. Kumar and the CBI at ‘neutral’ Shillong in Meghalaya and not anywhere in West Bengal, least of all in politically charged Kolkata. In the past few days, Ms. Banerjee spearheaded a protest, claiming that the attempted arrest of Mr. Kumar on the night of February 3 was an instance of the Narendra Modi government’s high-handedness. Notice issued The court, however, issued notice on a contempt petition filed by the CBI against the Chief Secretary, the DGP and Mr. Kumar. It asked them to file their replies by February 18. If found necessary, they would be informed by the court’s Secretary-General to be present for the next hearing on February 20. The case was taken up on a priority basis by the court on Tuesday. Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal, for the CBI, informed the court that Mr. Kumar was the ‘functional head’ of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) formed by the West Bengal government which investigated the chit fund cases, including the multi-crore Saradha and Rose Valley scams, before they were transferred by the Supreme Court to the CBI on May 9, 2014. Mr. Venugopal said powerful persons in politics and the police were linked to the chit fund scams.

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