BQExplains: What Led To Mamata Banerjee’s Fight With The CBI
Mamata Banerjee ended her three-day protest against the Central Bureau of Investigation’s attempt to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar after the Supreme Court safeguarded him from arrest but asked the top cop to appear before the agency for questioning.
The West Bengal Chief Minister used the opportunity to display opposition unity with leaders from various parties coming out in her support. But what led to an unprecedented clash between the CBI and the West Bengal police? BloombergQuint traces the sequence of events and the investigations into chit fund scams of 2013.
Saradha, Rose Valley Ponzi Schemes
The Saradha and Rose Valley groups raised money from investors in eastern India promising returns of up to 24 percent a year according to a 2013 SEBI report. The pyramid schemes paid older investors with the money raised from new ones and gave agents big payouts. In April 2013, the Saradha group ran out of money to pay investors. The two groups in all raised more than Rs 17,000 crore and over 16 lakh people lost their savings.
How Did Mamata React?
The West Bengal government headed by Mamata Banerjee announced a Rs 500 crore relief and set up a special investigation team headed by Rajeev Kumar, now at the at the centre of the storm. The state government had then refused to hand over investigations to the CBI, unlike Tripura and Assam.
When Did The Supreme Court Step In?
Following a clutch of public interest litigations, the Supreme Court directed the CBI to take over the case on May 9, 2014. For four years nothing much happened. Two alleged conspirators who ran the Saradha group—Sudipta Sen and Kunal Ghosh, then a member of Parliament from Mamata’s Trinamool Congress—were arrested by the West Bengal police.
Names of Mukul Roy, then with the TMC, and Himanta Biswa Sarma, then with the Congress, also surfaced. Both later joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
The opposition has alleged that the two politicians weren’t pursued once they jumped ship to join the BJP. In fact, one of the key reasons for the Supreme Court to handover investigations to the CBI was the alleged involvement of powerful politicians in West Bengal.
The Supreme Court in fact pointed to the slow pace of the CBI investigation in July 2018 when it said, “The CBI and state SIT are obstructing each other. This is a sorry state of affairs… Till now, there is no prosecution against the accused.Most of the accused are out on bail.”
Why Did The CBI Act Now?
The CBI saidit has been asking Kumar to comply for months but the Kolkata police commissioner didn’t cooperate. But its alacrity came into question because CBI officials landed at Kumar’s resident on a Sunday evening to question, and possibly arrest him. Moreover, the action came amid growing clashes between Mamata Banerjee and the Modi dispensation just a couple of months before the general elections.
Meanwhile, investors who lost money await justice.