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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 9 New Delhi February 16, 2019

Spectacular CBI Move in Kolkata: Reading the Social Text

Sunday 17 February 2019

by Arup Kumar Sen

An unparalleled political confrontation between the Centre and State of West Bengal took place in Kolkata on February 3, 2019, over an attempted questioning of the city’s Police Commissioner, Rajeev Kumar, by CBI officials in connection with the chit fund scams in the State. Reportedly, the CBI attempt to question the Police Commissioner was aimed at locating “crucial evidence” linked to the scams. The CBI team was briefly detained by the city police, and Central forces had to be deployed by night on the same date at the CGO Complex housing the CBI office in Kolkata.

Ultimately, the battle went to the Supreme Court. The 17-page affidavit filed by the CBI stated that the CDRs (Call Data Records) of the prime accused in the scams, furnished by Rajeev Kumar on June 28, 2018, “were found to be tampered, doctored and the material evidence had been destroyed”. It may be stated in this connection that the Supreme Court Bench headed by the Chief Justice of India (CJI) had reportedly observed that the CBI’S petition against obstruction by the Kolkata Police did not contain any allegation regarding destruction of evidence by the Kolkata Police. However, the CJI, Ranjan Gogoi, sternly said: “If the Police Commissioner or anyone else is even thinking about destroying any evidence, we will come down so heavily that they will regret it.” (See Live Law. in, February 5, 2019) After hearing the submissions, the Bench headed by the CJI directed Rajeev Kumar to make himself available before the CBI for questioning at a neutral place, Shillong. The Apex Court asked the CBI to refrain from arresting him.

The dramatic political confrontation between the Centre and the State has generated public debates. What the eminent political analyst, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, said in this context (The Indian Express, February 8, 2019) is worthy of serious attention:

The politics of “anti-corruption” in India presents a fascinating spectacle. Like the use of religion in politics, anti-corruption works more as a totem for the consolidation of political identity than a genuine desire to clean the system...A genuine anti-corruption politics requires institutions that can credibly project the distinction between political vendetta and a genuine search for truth. No political party could create those institutions without risking some of its own people...the BJP’s anti-corruption plank was going to run on empty.

The retired Director General of Police, Prakash Singh, also did not find any moral substance in the CBI move. He stated: What happened was a kind of shadow boxing. The real fight was between the Centre and the State Government, one pushing its agenda through the CBI, and the other resisting it with the State Police. (The Indian Express, February 9, 2019)

The showdown between the CBI and West Bengal Government took place on the last day of M. Nageshwar Rao’s tenure as the interim CBI Director. Rao landed in controversy on a number of occasions in his professional career. On December 10, 1998, when Rao was posted in Berhampur, an NGO in Odisha, named The Humane, organised a public function and invited him as a speaker. In his speech, Rao is said to have stated that “Muslims, Christians and Marxists” were the biggest threat to human rights. A petition was filed by Ali Kishore Patnaik, the Odisha State Secretary of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, in the Odisha High Court in early 1999, objecting to the fact that Rao, as a senior IPS officer, violated the Indian Service (Conduct) Rules and sections of the Indian Penal Code by inciting communal passion and hatred. Recently, Patnaik raised questions about Nageshwar Rao’s role as the Inspector General of the CRPF in the Kandhamal District, during the communal riots in 2008. (SeeTheWire, October 29, 2018)

Very recently, on February 7, 2019, the Supreme Court “initiated contempt proceedings” against M. Nageshwar Rao and other CBI officers for being involved in the transfer of Joint Director Arun Kumar Sharma, an officer probing corruption charges against the then Special Director, Rakesh Asthana, violating the orders of the Supreme Court in this regard. The Bench, led by the CJI, directed the newly appointed CBI Director, Rishi Kumar Shukla, to ensure the presence of Rao and other concerned officers in the Court on February 12, 2019. The CJI reportedly warned: “We are going to take it very very seriously. You (CBI officers) have played with the order of the Supreme Court. God help you. Never play with the SC’s order.”

The above developments remind us of Marx’s famous statement made in his Theses on Feuer-bachthe educator must himself be educated.

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