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Five Judge Bench of Calcutta HC defers hearing of bail application for the accused in Narada case after request made by SG Tushar Mehta

Five Judge Bench of Calcutta HC defers hearing of bail application for the accused in Narada case after request made by SG Tushar Mehta

The Five Judge Bench of the Calcutta High Court deferred hearing a matter related to a bail application filed by the four accused persons in the Narada corruption scam case.

At the beginning of the hearing on Monday (24/05/2021), Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had requested the court to defer the hearing of the matter as the CBI has approached the Supreme Court challenging the Division Bench order putting the accused under house arrest rather than in CBI custody.

The Bench comprised of ACJ Rajesh Bindal and Justices Harish Tandon, IP Mukerji, Arjit Banerjee and Soumen Sen.

Senior Advocates LM Singhvi and Siddhartha Luthra appearing for the bail applicants, opposed the plea for adjournment vigorously.  They argued that just because a case is filed before the Supreme Court does not mean there should be a stay in hearing of the matter in the High Court.

The court did not immediately adjourn the matter but hearing on the issues to be formulated continued for more than two hours.

Justice IP Mukerji observed that the accused had not been arrested earlier even though the investigation was ongoing for seven-year. He questioned the sudden urgency for arrest as soon as the charge sheet was filed.

On this point, the Solicitor General submitted that the issue is not relevant as the Bench is not considering the actual bail application but the disruption of the trial court proceedings and the consequent divergence in the opinion of the members of the Division Bench.

On the question of transfer of the case from the trial court under Section 470 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, Justice Soumen Sen enquired whether the transfer of trial itself will automatically cancel the bail granted to the accused without an application for the same under Section 439(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

To this question, LM Singhvi told the court that transfer of the case needs to be allowed only if the trial court was disrupted and prevented from hearing the matter. He argued that the hearing in the matter happened through video conferencing in the trial court, and there was no disruption of the hearing.

The Solicitor General argued that the proceedings in the trial court have no validity as it was subjected to disruption. He submitted that the matter should be heard de novo by the High Court.

The counsels for the accused submitted that bail is a matter of liberty and can be cancelled only following the procedure laid down in Section 439(2) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

Further hearing on the matter is posted for 26th May 2021.

The events which led to the matter coming before the five-judge Bench involve a controversial cancellation of bail granted to the accused TMC leaders- Farid Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee- by a Division Bench of the High Court, leading to their arrest by CBI on 17th May 2021.

On the bail application filed by the accused, there was a split in the verdicts given by the Division Bench of the High Court. Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal ordered that the accused be kept under house arrest while Justice Arjit Banerjee allowed bail. This divergence opinion led to a reference to the Five-Member Bench.

The accused are alleged to have taken bribes which were given to them as a part of a sting operation by the Narada News Channel.

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