The Supreme Court on Friday vacated its order granting protection from arrest to former Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the Saradha chit fund scam case. It is seen as a jolt to West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee just before voting of the seventh and last phase of the Lok Sabha elections, which is due on May 19. Now CBI can arrest Rajeev Kumar who is considered very close to Mamata Banerjee.
The apex court said that its order on February 5 granting interim protection to Rajeev Kumar will continue for seven days from Friday to enable him to approach the competent court for legal remedy. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked the CBI to act in accordance with the law in the case. An advocate of Rajeev Kumar said that as per the apex court order, Kumar cannot be arrested in the next seven days.
The central agency had sought custodial interrogation of Rajeev Kumar on the grounds that he had given evasive replies during questioning. However, on April 30, the Supreme Court ordered the CBI to submit evidence to establish its claim of Kumar’s involvement in the scam.
The Supreme Court’s directive came after Rajeev Kumar’s counsel argued that the agency wanted his custodial interrogation “just to humiliate” him and the CBI should not be allowed to abuse the process of law. He labelled the CBI’s plea a “malafide exercise”.
The CBI had interrogated Kumar in February in Meghalaya’s capital Shillong about his alleged role in tampering crucial evidence in the chit fund case. Kumar was heading the Special Investigation Team set up by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to probe the scam before the case was handed over to the CBI by the top court.
The CBI had moved the Supreme Court after the Kolkata Police prevented its officials from approaching Kumar at his official residence in Kolkata on February 3. On the same night, Banerjee began the “Save the Constitution” protest at Esplanade, accusing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah of plotting a coup. Rajeev Kumar had also joined the dharna, along with a few other police officers.
It is remarkable the Saradha company ran several Ponzi schemes in West Bengal, allegedly defrauding lakhs of people. Thousands of crores of rupees were lost after the scheme collapsed in 2013.