OPINION
WB POLICE - CBI DRAMA
Another shameful chapter in the Centre-State relations
- Vipin Pubby
Another shameful chapter in the Centre-State relations



The recent drama in Kolkata, involving an aborted attempt by a CBI team to question the city’s police head, the team being taken to police station and the subsequent dharna by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, has added another shameful chapter in the centre-state relations emerging out of politics.

The country’s leading investigation agency and the state police were used to what was essentially a political fight between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress. The timing of the action was a clear give away that it was aimed with an eye at the coming general elections. While the Centre initiated the action by sending a CBI team to question the senior most police officer in Kolkata without informing the state government, the chief minister known for theatrics seized the opportunity to gain political mileage out of it.

The action came soon after Mamata Banerjee’s Government declined permission to the BJP chief Amit Shah to address a rally and did not allow landing of a helicopter carrying Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath. The drama also unfolded in the wake of Mamata organising a massive rally attended by almost all opposition parties.

The CBI waited for four years to interrogate Rajeev Kumar, now Kolkata Police Commissioner, but could not wait even for a day more to let the new Director join his duties and study the case to decide future course of action.

That the entire operation was hastily and badly planned is clear from the fact that the team was rushed to question the police chief at his residence. The CBI officials would have known that the police chief’s residence and office would have a large posse of police  men posted for his security. He was not an ordinary person whose premises was unguarded and CBI personnel could have entered unobstructed. The officials as well as those who had sent them could have expected the hostile reaction of security guards at the residence of the police Commissioner.
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 Both the centre and the West Bengal deserved to be pulled up by the Supreme Court which it rightly did. It has asked the Kolkotta police Commissioner to present himself for questioning at Shillong but has warned the CBI not to arrest him.
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What they may not have expected was that they would be bundled out and taken to a police station. They were released after a short stay there but by then enough damage had been done. Not just the media captured the unprecedented action but Mamata Banerjee herself rushed to the site and sat on a dharna.

Both the centre and the West Bengal deserved to be pulled up by the Supreme Court which it rightly did. It has asked the Kolkata police Commissioner to present himself for questioning at Shillong but has warned the CBI not to arrest him. The highest court would now hear a contempt petition against the West Bengal Government.

While the BJP and the TMC have been able to score political points over the issue, the developments have opened up possibilities of further confrontations between the Centre and the states. Law and order is a state subject but CBI is a central Investigations agency. CBI has always been known to be used by the government at the centre. Supreme Court has once described it as a "caged parrot”.

It is in that light that some of the state governments, including that of West Bengal, have withdrawn general permission to the CBI to investigate any case pertaining to the state. Legal experts say that the withdrawal of permission was only for new cases and that old cases could be continued to be investigated by the CBI.

With a balanced directive of the Supreme Court, the issue appears to have been settled for the present, any further  precipitate action could have led to the breakdown of the constitutional machinery. There is need to clarify and follow procedures so that such a sensitive situation does not arise again.
 

 

 

(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.)

 

 

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