Bengal minister sent to jail again, PIL seeks removal as minister

Bengal minister sent to jail again, PIL seeks removal as minister

West Bengal Transport and Sports Minister Madan Mitra - arrested in the Saradha scam - was Friday yet again denied bail with a city court extending his judicial custody till Jan 30.

During the day, a public interest litigation (PIL) was also filed before the Calcutta High Court seeking Mitra's disqualification as a minister as he can't discharge his ministerial responsibilities from jail.

Mitra, a senior leader from the state's ruling Trinamool Congress, was presented in the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate H. Mukherjee on the expiry of his earlier judicial remand.

"In the remand application, the CBI is claiming that all materials from Mitra have been collected by it. If it is so, then why are they seeking his further custody," Mitra's counsel Ashok Mukherjee told the court pressing for the minister's bail. 

The defence also questioned why Mitra was being detained in custody when Sajjan Agarwal- one of the accused mentioned in the Central Bureau of Investigation's charge sheet, was not arrested.

The CBI counsel in his reply said that Agarwal was cooperating with the agency in the investigation and his arrest was not required.

Subsequently, Mitra seeking the court's permission to speak, asked the court why was he arrested when he too was cooperating with the CBI.

"The CBI says that Agarwal is cooperating so he need not be arrested. I too have been cooperating with the CBI, then why was I arrested? Does that mean that one will not cooperate if he is in custody? If it is so, then I should also be allowed to go out of custody so that I can cooperate," argued Mitra.

Opposing the bail plea, the CBI counsel said that granting bail to Mitra would hamper the investigation and asserted that his custody was essential for the agency in its bid to unravel the larger conspiracy involved in the multi-crore rupee scam which has affected lakhs of depositors across several states.

Seeking the court's permission for the CBI sleuths to interrogate the minister in jail, agency's counsel said it would be submitting a supplementary charge sheet in the case later.

Rejecting Mitra's bail, the court extended Mitra's judicial custody by 14 days and allowed the CBI to interrogate him in the presence of a defence counsel between Jan 17 and Jan 24.

Police whisked away Mitra to the jail from the court premises even as hundreds of Trinamool supporters shouted slogans against the CBI.

Meanwhile, Subhrojit Bhaduri, a lawyer filed a PIL before the bench of Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice A. K. Banerjee contending that Mitra be disqualified as a minister as he can't discharge his ministerial responsibilities from jail.

"As a minister, Mitra had taken an oath of serving the people by discharging his ministerial duties and responsibilities. Since now he is in jail and can't discharge his responsibilities so we have approached the court seeking his removal," he said.

Bhaduri had earlier written to Governor K.N. Tripathi seeking the removal of Mitra who was arrested by the CBI Dec 12 for alleged conspiracy, cheating and misappropriation as well as deriving undue financial benefits from the Saradha Group.

"We had written to the governor Jan 9 but haven't received any response so far. So, we have moved the court. Beside the state government, the Election Commission and Mitra have been made parties in the petition. The petition has been admitted and is likely to come up for hearing next week," he added.

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