Madan Mitra’s supporters outside the Alipore Judges’ Court. (Pradip Sanyal)
Calcutta, Feb. 11: A judge today observed that there was no reason to believe that Trinamul minister Madan Mitra was in no way connected with alleged offences in a Saradha case.
Several judicial observations are usually made during the course of hearings and they cannot be construed as pronouncements of guilt or otherwise.
But the observation came in the middle of attempts by the Trinamul Congress to bask in the reflected glory of the spectacular Delhi victory of the AAP, a party founded on the anti-corruption plank.
The judicial observation assumes significance also because of attempts on Monday by lawyers sympathetic to Trinamul to browbeat a magistrate and prevent him from correcting a mistake and including a clause that would have made it difficult for the minister to secure bail. The magistrate had held his ground for hours - the siege is now being probed by the high court - and included the clause around 10.40 that night.
The inclusion of the clause (Section 409 of the IPC) in the Saradha Realty case became academic as far as today's hearing was concerned as the district and sessions judge of Alipore denied Mitra bail on the ground rooted in the observation.
Judge Samaresh Prasad Chowdhury observed that statements by Saradha agents and depositors before the magistrate, as mentioned in the case diary produced before him, showed the "involvement of the petitioner" (minister Mitra) in the alleged offences.
The judge said there was no reason to believe that the petitioner was in no way connected with the alleged offences. The judge added that a bail order at this stage of the investigation would hamper the probe aimed at unearthing the larger criminal conspiracy and the money trail.
The observations appeared to have left the Trinamul leadership speechless - unlike yesterday when chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her aides had taken to the social media to celebrate the AAP victory as their own.
Derek O'Brien, the Trinamul spokesperson usually found on the Twitter frontline, responded to a question on the court's observation with an uncharacteristic and circumspect "no comments".
Several supporters of Mitra and lawyers sympathetic to Trinamul had gathered on the Alipore court premises in anticipation of bail for Mitra.
A relief would have been celebrated as evidence of Mitra's innocence and vindication of the Trinamul stand that the Saradha cases had been trumped up for political vendetta.
Minister Mitra's lawyers had moved a bail petition a day after the same court had granted bail to Srinjoy Bose, who has since then resigned from Trinamul and announced his decision to give up his Rajya Sabha membership.
When the order denying bail was issued around 6pm, most supporters struggled to hide their disappointment. Some felt that the possibility of bail before the chargesheet was filed (the CBI can take up to a month more) was remote.
Arguing on behalf of the CBI, special public prosecutor K. Raghavacharyulu said Mitra had become "Money Mitra" by being a part of a scam in which money of the poor had been swindled.
The Saradha Group, he contended, had set up 160 companies, 218 branches, 347 accounts in 15 different banks and had a whopping 2.21 lakh agents under its wings who would go about getting "fresh flesh" for the company.
"The minister had assured these Saradha agents at a meeting in Netaji Indoor Stadium that he was there for them. Sir, this is not a case of stabbing but an offence against the common man and the poor man," Raghavacharyulu said.
"There may not be direct evidence in a criminal conspiracy in an economic offence. But the minister was the president of the Saradha employees' association and there are depositors who have said they had invested because of him. Revelations that are coming forward are shocking," he added.