Justice Amrita Sinha of Calcutta High Court on Thursday told Calcutta police not to harass Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials investigating the school recruitment scam case.
The ED is scrutinising the role of Trinamul national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee on which he said he was not afraid of central probe agencies misused under the saffron regime.
The judge's order followed an allegation by the ED that soon after the name of Abhishek was divulged in the case, Calcutta police started harassing the central agency’s officials.
“Summons are being sent to them frequently. The police have been trying to disturb the probe being conducted by our officers,” said ED lawyer Billwadal Bhattacharyya.
Appearing for the state, public prosecutor Saswata Gopal Mukherjee said: “The ED’s allegation is baseless.”
“Following a case lodged under the cyber crime department, the police are trying to find out what law empowered the ED officers to download some files without their permission,” he added. “Some mails have been sent to ED officials.”
To this, Justice Sinha asked: “Do you not think the police are more active?”
The state lawyer said: “Sometimes, it is said the police are doing nothing. If they act, it is said that it is doing too much. Where will the police go?”
In response to an earlier order by the judge, the ED submitted a detailed report on the properties and other belongings of Abhishek, the chief executive officer of Leaps and Bounds Private Limited whose assets the ED is looking into, and other directors of the company. The report was given in a sealed cover.
On September 14, Justice Sinha issued an interim order directing the ED to submit a detailed report on the assets of Leaps and Bounds Private Limited.
Following the order, the ED purportedly sent out notices seeking details of assets to chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek — who said in public on August 13 that he remains the CEO of the company — and others.
Abhishek's parents — the chief minister’s brother Amit and sister-in-law Lata — are among the directors of the company.
On September 14, the judge told the ED to find out the names of the persons from the Tollywood entertainment industry who had connections with the company.
The ED on Thursday claimed that an actor with close ties with Trinamul had borrowed Rs 44 lakh from the company.
The judge said: “It is not believable that only one Tollywood actor has connections with the company.”
The case will again be heard on October 4.
The September 13 appearance before the ED had kept Abhishek from attending the inaugural meeting of the 14-member coordination committee meeting of the national bloc of anti-BJP forces, INDIA, that was held in Delhi.
The summons for the interrogation on that day prompted Abhishek and Mamata to accuse the BJP-led Centre of “political vendetta” and misuse of central agencies. Trinamul had asserted that successful meetings of the INDIA bloc had resulted in the ED summoning its national general secretary on September 13.
The agency started probing Leaps and Bounds Private Limited in connection with the alleged irregularities in recruitments in state-aided schools, after Sujay Bhadra aka Kalighater Kaku, one of the accused in the case who is in judicial custody now after his arrest, said that he worked for Abhishek.
Bhadra was the chief operating officer of the company.
After appearing before the ED, Abhishek had said on September 13 that the net result of these interrogations prior to the latest round was “-2”, calling it an “exercise in futility” at the cost of the public exchequer.
On Thursday, Abhishek had said in Delhi that he was far from being scared of the central probe agencies.
“I am not, at all, scared of the ED-CBI. Why should I be?” asked Abhishek.
“Whatever information they sought from me, I gave them. Since 2020, whatever bank documents they asked for, I gave them. However many times they called me, I went,” he added.
Between Abhishek and his wife, Rujira, there have been nine appearances in two years before the central agencies, both in Delhi and Calcutta.
“I have nothing to hide. If they call me again, I will go again,” said the Trinamul general secretary and MP.
“This is the BJP’s agency politics. They call me repeatedly, to keep me from political programmes. This will not yield any benefits for them,” he added.
A division bench of Calcutta High Court headed by Justice Sabyasachi Bhattacharyya on Thursday upheld the order passed by the single bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay of the same court, which had recently handed over the probe into the alleged defalcation of funds in a women's cooperative society in Alipurduar to the CBI and ED.
The division bench, however, stayed a portion of Justice Gangopadhyay’s order asking the CID to pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh for not carrying the court’s order on time and handing over the documents relating to the alleged women's cooperative funds scam to the CBI beyond the stipulated timeline.