The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear on May 26 a plea by senior TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee against his questioning by the CBI in the school jobs scam case, as reported by the news agency PTI. Banerjee, who was on May 20 questioned for over nine hours by the CBI in connection with the probe into the case, has sought the apex court direction that no coercive steps be taken against him by the agency.
Senior advocate Abhishek Singhvi, appearing for Banerjee, mentioned the matter for urgent listing before a vacation bench of Justices Aniruddha Bose and Sanjay Karol. The bench said the plea would be heard on Friday.
Banerjee’s name cropped up in a complaint filed by Kuntal Ghosh, a local businessman and an accused in the school jobs scam, where he alleged that central investigating agencies were pressuring him to name Banerjee, who is the national general secretary of the TMC, in the case, as reported by PTI.
The agency’s summons came within 24 hours of the Calcutta High Court dismissing on Thursday a petition filed by Banerjee seeking recall of a previous court order, which said that investigative agencies such as the CBI and ED could interrogate him in the teacher recruitment scam case.
An attempt on Friday to get a division bench and, after that, the chief justice of the Calcutta High Court to hear his revision plea did not yield results. While mentioning the matter before the apex court, Singhvi said Banerjee has already been quizzed for over nine hours by the CBI and the TMC leader is apprehending that he may be arrested if called against for questioning by the agency. “I (Banerjee) am asking for no coercive step,” Singhvi told the bench, while requesting it to list the matter for hearing in this week, as reported by PTI.
The bench agreed to hear the plea on Friday and told Singhvi to ask his junior counsel to go to the mentioning officer. After his questioning was over on May 20, Banerjee had told the mediapersons keeping vigil outside the CBI’s office at Nizam Palace in Kolkata, that the questioning was a waste of time for both him and the investigative agency’s officers, but he “cooperated in all that was asked”.
On Saturday, Banerjee said that he answered all the questions hurled at him. “I was questioned for 9 hrs 40 minutes by CBI. This was a total waste of their time (CBI time) and my time. Arrest me if you have proof against me. We will not bow down to you,” TMC MP said, as quoted by the news agency ANI. Banerjee also alleged that this is being done by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) against the backdrop of his recently launched Jono Sanjog Yatra, which will resume again on May 22.
“In the name of investigation, they are harassing me. They want to hamper my Jan Sanjog Yatra. This is done by BJP,” he said, as quoted by ANI. He added that he is ready to cooperate with the central agency. He further said that, however, CBI does not interrogate BJP leaders who are involved in many scams.
Launching a strong attack at the Centre, he said, “I will not be a pet dog of Delhi. They (BJP) are not able to suppress us.” The CBI summon came after the Calcutta High Court on Thursday allowed the central agencies to quiz the TMC leader in the recruitment scam in West Bengal schools. Central agencies previously questioned Abhishek, his wife, and his sister-in-law in relation to a coal smuggling scam case.
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Banerjee, nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had alleged that while TMC leaders who were unwilling to bend were being harassed, BJP leaders who had been involved in various cases were allowed to go scot-free. The two-time TMC MP from Diamond Harbour was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) twice in the coal pilferage case in the agency’s office in the national capital in 2021 and also in Kolkata in 2022.
While the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing the criminal aspect of the scam, the ED is looking into the money trail involved in the alleged irregularities in school recruitment. Abhishek Banerjee, 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.