Battlefield Kolkata

Centre, Mamata should let law take its course

The CBI’s investigation into the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scams has snowballed into an all-out slugfest between the Centre and the Mamata Banerjee-led West Bengal Government. With barely a couple of months to go for the Lok Sabha elections, Mamata has accused the Modi government of indulging in political one-upmanship by misusing the premier investigating agency. The wannabe Prime Minister’s sit-in in support of Kolkata police chief Rajeev Kumar indicates that she is in no mood to back down and will take the fight to the finish. Home Minister Rajnath Singh has been equally forceful in warning the state not to mess around with the law.

The beleaguered CBI has been in the news of late mostly for the wrong reasons, and Sunday’s high drama in Kolkata was no exception. A bureau team, which went to Kumar’s residence in the city’s Loudon Street area to question him, was denied permission, bundled into police jeeps and whisked away to a police station, where its members were detained for a while. The probe agency’s attempted swoop may or may not have been politically motivated, but the cops clearly overstepped their powers by manhandling and intimidating CBI officials. Such misconduct is nothing short of goondaism, an obvious case of preventing a public servant from discharging his duty. What makes it worse is that the Chief Minister, too, is obstructing the course of justice.

Ironically, both camps are accusing each other of attacking the federal system, even as the controversy is likely to become a major issue in the upcoming General Election. Yet again in the picture, the Supreme Court will hear the CBI’s plea against the Kolkata Police Commissioner, who is accused of planning or trying to destroy electronic evidence related to the scams. In this unsavoury tussle, the law has been the prime casualty. The onus is now on the judiciary to restore order and constitutional sanity. It needs to be conveyed unequivocally to the politicians that they can’t get away with using government officials as pawns in their power game.

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