The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay a Calcutta High Court order directing the CBI and the ED to probe Trinamul MP Abhishek Banerjee in the teacher-recruitment scandal, but stayed till the next date of hearing the Rs 25 lakh fine imposed on him.
A bench of Justices J.K. Maheshwari and P.S. Narasimha posted the matter for further hearing on July 10. “List the matter in the week commencing 10.07.2023. Until the next date of hearing, imposition of the costs under the impugned order shall remain stayed,” the apex court said.
Although senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Abhishek, wanted to argue the matter relating to the directive passed by the single judge of the high court permitting the CBI and the ED to continue with the probe, the Supreme Court said its vacation bench would not interfere with the impugned order.
“We have made our observation.... We have come to the conclusion that interference is not warranted. But having said that, imposition of fine may not be warranted,” Justice Narasimha observed.
Singhvi said the apex court needed to examine the issue as it involved the personal liberty of a citizen.
Additional solicitor-general S.V. Raju, appearing for the ED, said the agency had the power to independently carry out a probe. “That power is unfettered, it cannot be usurped,” Raju argued, implying that even without the high court order, the ED could probe Abhishek.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the Bengal government, told the bench that the Centre was trying to terrorise the state by using the ED and the CBI.
Raju observed a "new trend" of the state appearing for the accused.
Sibal said the state intended to file a special leave petition against the high court order. “File it, not a problem. We'll consider,” Justice Maheshwari, heading the bench, said.
The SC was dealing with Abhishek's special leave petition against the order passed by Justice Amrita Sinha of Calcutta High Court on May 18 dismissing pleas moved by him and expelled Trinamul leader Kuntal Ghosh that challenged the April 13 order passed by Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay directing them to face CBI and ED probes. Justice Sinha upheld the order and fined Abhishek and Kuntal Rs 25 lakh each for wasting the court’s time.