File image of the CBI headquarters
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on May 17 arrested four Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders, including two recently-inducted ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government and a legislator, in connection with the 2016 Narada sting operation case.
The officials of the central agency visited the houses of these leaders and brought them for questioning at its office in Kolkata's Nizam Palace.
The arrested include ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, MLA Madan Mitra and former Kolkata mayor Sovan Chatterjee.
All four leaders were ministers in then TMC government when the Narada bribery tapes were released in 2014.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also arrived at the CBI office.
"I have heard CM Mamata Banerjee telling the officials that there is no rule that without the speaker's & State govt's permission one can arrest state officials. You have to arrest me (Mamata) if you arrest my officials," Advocate Anindo Raut was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar had earlier this month given prosecution sanction to the CBI against the four leaders, a move that empowered the central agency to file a chargesheet against all four.
“I was arrested by the CBI in connection with the Narada sting operation case. I was arrested without any prior notice. I will challenge my arrest in court (sic),” Hakim, West Bengal’s urban development and municipal affairs minister, was quoted as saying by News18.
News reports suggested that the four leaders will be produced in the court later in the day. They have been arrested under Section 120b of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and sections 7, and 13(1)(a) and 13(1)(b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"The CBI did not intimate us (about the arrests). If they have been arrested, it is illegal. The prior permission of the speaker of the legislative assembly is required for it, but it was not taken. This is undemocratic," West Bengal Legislative Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said it has nothing to do with the arrests. "We have nothing to say. BJP has nothing to do with this," party spokesperson Samik Bhattacharjee said.
The sting operation was conducted by Narada news founder Mathew Samuel for over two years. Ahead of the 2016 assembly elections, Narada news released videos showing 13 TMC ministers and leaders allegedly accepting bribes in return of favours, or misusing official positions.