KOLKATA, May 20 (PTI): TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, who appeared before the CBI at its Kolkata office on Saturday morning, where he had been called as part of the agency’s probe into the school jobs scam, has decided to move the Supreme Court challenging the Calcutta High court, which has cleared decks for his questioning.
Banerjee has been inside the CBI office at Nizam Palace amidst heavy security deployment in the area since 11 am answering questions posed by officers designated to probe the case.
Before appearing before the CBI this morning, Abhishek Banerjee wrote a letter to the CBI informing them he is moving the Supreme Court challenging the High Court order which allows investigative agencies CBI and ED to question him.
“At the very onset, I state that I am rather shocked to find that the notice under reference was served upon me on 19.05.2023 in the afternoon, directing me to appear before your office at Kolkata at 11.00 am on 20.05.2023, providing me less than a day’s time to comply,” he wrote.
Mentioning that he was in the midst of a two-month-long state-wide yatra to connect with the people of West Bengal, Abhishek said he, in the interest of extending full cooperation to the CBI investigation, decided to abide by the summons.
“Please note that I have preferred a Special Leave Petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of lndia, thereby challenging the order dated 18.05.2023 (passed by Calcutta High Court),”
He wrote that this would be “mentioned for urgent hearing before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India” on Monday or “as and when the business of the Hon’ble Court shall permit.”
Earlier in the day, the Enforcement Directorate conducted a raid at the residence of Sujay Krishna Bhadra, considered to be close to TMC top brass, in connection with its probe into the school jobs scam, an official of the central agency said.
The official said the raid was carried out at the Behala house of ‘Kalighat er Kaku’ (Kalighat’s uncle) as he is popularly known.
On March 15, Bhadra appeared before the CBI for his alleged involvement in illegal appointments made in different state-run and state-aided schools in West Bengal.
While the Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the criminal aspect of the scam, the ED is looking into the money trail involved in the alleged irregularities in school recruitment.
The TMC leader, who was on the campaign trail in Bankura in western Bengal, had rushed back to Kolkata Friday night to answer the summons sent by the central investigative agency.
“You are hereby directed to appear before me on Saturday, at 11 am…,” a letter sent by a deputy superintendent of the CBI to Banerjee’s Harish Mukherjee road address on Friday said.
Later on Friday, the TMC leader and nephew of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, had in an impromptu speech delivered from atop his vehicle had, also dared the central agency to arrest him if it has any proof of corruption or misconduct against him.
“I dare the CBI to arrest me if they have any proof of corruption against me,” Abhishek said at a rally in Bankura.
On Thursday, Calcutta High Court dismissed a petition filed by Banerjee seeking recall of a previous court order, which said that investigative agencies such as CBI and ED could interrogate him in the teacher recruitment scam.
The TMC leader’s name cropped up in a complaint filed by Kuntal Ghosh, an accused in the scam. Ghosh alleged that central investigating agencies were pressuring him to name Abhishek Banerjee in the school scam case.
An attempt on Friday to get a division bench and, after that, the chief justice of Calcutta High Court to hear his revision plea did not yield results.
The matter may now be taken up before a vacation bench of the High Court which will sit from Monday onwards.
Reacting to CBI’s questioning, the TMC leadership wondered why the central probe agency never questioned BJP leaders.
Meanwhile, the CBI’s questioning of the top TMC leader kicked off a war of words between Bengal’s ruling party and state’s main opposition BJP, with the TMC leadership wondering why the central probe agency never questioned BJP leaders.
“Abhishek Banerjee and TMC have always cooperated with the CBI and ED probe. But the saffron camp is using central agencies to harass us,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
He added that on the other hand, “A person caught on camera taking money is not summonned by CBI as he has joined the BJP,” in an apparent reference to a top BJP leader who defected from TMC.
Ghosh said, similarly, “CBI or ED never summons those politicians Sudipto Sen named in the Saradha scam.” Sen was the kingpin of the Saradha chit fund scam which rocked the state some years back.
Reacting to his remarks, the BJP dubbed the allegations as baseless.
“The BJP has nothing to do with the CBI probe. If the TMC leaders have nothing to hide, why are they so bothered about being summoned and making such allegations. And regarding the letter naming a BJP leader by Sudipto Sen, everybody knows who made Sen write the letter. If they have anything to say they can always move court,” BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, implying that TMC had asked Sen to name certain people.