Mamata Banerjee versus CBI: 3 key takeaways
The investigative agency’s officers were detained by police in Kolkata on February 3.
West Bengal was plunged into a federal crisis on February 3 when a group of 40 CBI officers were detained by Kolkata police. They had tried to question the city’s police commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection to the Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi schemes.
Following this, chief minister Mamata Banerjee reached Kumar's residence. She announced that she would go on a dharna against the Centre’s attitude towards her state, and even alleged that the Narendra Modi government was trying to start a "coup" in West Bengal.
Amidst the high drama that took place in Kolkata, here are the three key points to understand what the crisis is all about.
1. Who is Rajeev Kumar?
A 1989-batch IPS officer of the West Bengal cadre, Kumar is at present the Kolkata’s police commissioner and is perceived to be close to Banerjee.
After Saradha and Rose Valley ponzi scheme surfaced in 2013, Mamata had ordered a SIT headed by Kumar to look into the matter.
The primary allegation against Kumar is that as in-charge of the SIT, he allegedly destroyed some crucial evidence about to the scam that he was investigating.
A day before the raid, CBI had even alleged that Kumar had gone missing, a charge strongly refuted by Kolkata police, which instead claimed that Kumar had only gone on a day's leave and has resumed office since.
2. What does the law say?
Kolkata police, in justifying their actions against the CBI officers, said they wanted to check whether the CBI had the prerequisite papers and jurisdiction, and hence had to escort them to the police station.
The CBI, on the other hand, maintained that it was empowered to act without warrants, and the situation in Kolkata was one such instance. According to the CBI, they had to take the extreme step as Kumar was absconding.
On the morning of February 4, CBI moved the Supreme Court and it agreed to hear the plea on Tuesday. The Saradha case is presently under the Calcutta High Court, and while the Supreme Court does and can direct the CBI to investigate the matter, it is not monitoring the case.
3. Opposition unity
Banerjee turned the case into a Centre versus Bengal issue by going for a dharna. She wasted no time in painting the entire situation as that of a witch hunt ordered by Modi and Amit Shah, and taken up by NSA chief Ajit Doval, in an attempt to undermine her state government.
As soon as this transpired, the case ended up unifying the entire rank and file of the Opposition, with leaders like Rahul Gandhi, MK Stalin, Chandrababu Naidu, Akhilesh Yadav and Arvind Kejriwal and several others, tweeting and offering their support, and criticising the Centre for its actions.