Barely 24 hours before a joint parliamentary team is expected in the city to probe the state government’s role in handling the wakf scandal, the Calcutta Police detective department made the second round of arrests in connection with the Rs 1,000-crore scam.
Last year, Hamimul Huda, a former member of the wakf board, had been rounded up on charges of masterminding the scandal which rocked Bengal in 1996.
Five persons, including Huda’s son and brother, were taken into custody from their Collin Street residence on Saturday on the basis of the findings of a one-man commission, comprising Justice Gitesh Ranjan Bhattacharya, probing the wakf irregularities. The three others were a promoter and his two sons.
The Bhattacharya commission had submitted its report to the state government on December 31, 2001. The report was then referred to the minorities development and welfare department. In 2002, deputy secretary D.N. Dey lodged a complaint with the detective department against Huda and within 48 hours sleuths arrested the accused.
The principal charges against the arrested persons were selling and leasing out of wakf properties at “throw-away prices” and misappropriation of wakf funds. “We have booked the five on charges of cheating. The accused will be prosecuted under Prevention of Corruption Act,” said Soumen Mitra, deputy commissioner of police, detective department.
The accused — Huda’s son Tahakil and brother Samimul and promoter Aftab Alam and his two sons, Mehtab and Altaf — were produced before chief metropolitan magistrate A.C. Mishra who sent them to jail custody. Huda, believed to be the mastermind, is now on bail as the police failed to submit a chargesheet against him within the stipulated time of 90 days.
Idris Ali, general secretary of Pradesh Congress Minority Cell, described the arrest as an eye-wash. “The five persons were rounded up only to convince the parliamentary team. Instead of arresting the wakf board members responsible for the irregularities, police have picked up only the beneficiaries,” Ali alleged.
The parliamentary team will hold a hearing on July 7 on the allegation made by some organisations that the state government did nothing against the offenders even after receiving the commission’s recommendations. The Union government decided to send the team after the MPs, during the last Parliament session, raised allegations of negligence on the part of the state government in dealing with the wakf scandal.
In February 1996, irregularities were first detected at a wakf property on Collin Street which involved Huda and others. A member of the wakf trust lodged a complaint with the city police which started an inquiry. The state minority commission was flooded with similar complaints from Muslim organisations.
Mitra, the overseer of the wakf scandal probe, denied any link between the arrest and the arrival of the joint parliamentary team. “We took one year to make the second round of arrests because it is completely a document-based investigation. The officers were busy collecting valid papers to be sure of the role of five persons in the scandal,” he added.