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MP sent to five days’ police custody

Calcutta, Nov. 24: A Salt Lake court today sent Kunal Ghosh to five days’ police custody, dismissing his lawyers’ argument that he be granted bail as he had “fully cooperated” during interrogation.

Kunal was brought to the Bidhannagar additional chief judicial magistrate’s court at 10.40am in a police vehicle and escorted to the second floor, where the courtroom is located.

He was initially put in a lock-up in another room with two murder accused and a man arrested for running a liquor den. Later, he was transferred to the lock-up inside the courtroom, opposite the magistrate’s chair.

Kunal has been booked for non-payment of salary and other statutory dues to a section of employees of the media outfit of the busted Saradha Group.

One of Kunal’s lawyers, Sudipta Moitra, told the court: “My client was arrested after being interrogated (by Bidhannagar police) 11 times. He always co-operated with the investigating agency. He was readily available whenever the police asked him to come for interrogation.”

Moitra said the MP was scheduled to attend Parliament’s winter session, which begins on December 5. “He will not abscond.... My client had no role in salary payment. I pray for my client’s bail as Parliament’s session will begin on December 5,” he said.

If Kunal’s police custody is extended or he is sent to judicial custody, he is unlikely to be able to attend the session.

Former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said Kunal, or Trinamul, would have to seek parole from court to attend the session. “Only if the court grants him parole can he attend Parliament,” Chatterjee said.

Public prosecutor Sekhar Chakrabarty told the court that the police had found the MP’s “involvement in siphoning off funds raised by Saradha from depositors”.

Chakrabarty said that as Kunal had been the CEO of Saradha’s media wing and had drawn a monthly salary of Rs 15 lakh, Kunal could not shrug off his responsibility.

When magistrate Apurba Kumar Ghosh was about to write the order, Kunal stood up and said: “Sir, I want to say something.”

Ghosh replied: “I cannot allow you and your lawyer to speak simultaneously.”

Kunal then sought the magistrate’s permission to speak to his lawyer, which was granted. Soumyajit Ghosh, who is part of the MP’s legal team, spoke to him. “My client objects to the amount of salary mentioned by the public prosecutor,” Ghosh said.

Once the submission was over, Kunal again told the magistrate: “I have given all names (of people who, Kunal believes, know details of the funds raised by Saradha) to the investigating officer. Please ask him to disclose the names in the court.”

Before getting into the police vehicle, Kunal said he would “continue with his hunger strike”. Police sources said Kunal has not had anything except for a cup of tea since his arrest last night. He did not sleep all night. Before dawn, he was taken to his house in north Calcutta. The police seized the CPU of his computer.