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Saradha Chit Fund case: SC says CBI has made ‘very very serious’ allegations against Kolkata police chief in its status report

CBI alleged that in 2009 the Centre had cautioned West Bengal government about the possibility of chit fund companies cheating people but the state government took no action and “allowed” it to thrive

The Supreme Court on Tuesday said that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has in its status report made ‘very very serious’ revelations on the interrogation of former Kolkata Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the Saradha chit fund scam.

SC also asked the agency to file an application within 10 days to press its charges. Kumar and others can respond to the plea within seven days after that.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said it cannot “close its eyes” if some “very very serious facts” are disclosed to it. However, it added that as the CBI’s status report was filed in a sealed cover, it cannot pass any order at the moment without hearing the other side. “We will later determine the charges and counter-charges after hearing both sides,” the apex court said.

The Supreme court was hearing the CBI’s contempt petition against various senior officials of the West Bengal government, including the State’s DGP and the then Kolkata police commissioner on the ground of non-cooperation in its probe into the Saradha chit fund scam and alleged destruction of evidence.

In the last hearing, the Supreme Court had directed the CBI Director, Rishi Kumar Shukla to provide information in support to the allegations that Kumar had tampered with and destructed call data records, who was then heading the West Bengal Special Investigation Team (SIT) while probing the chit fund scam.

In an affidavit submitted to the court, the CBI had alleged that in 2009 the Centre had cautioned West Bengal government about the possibility of chit fund companies cheating people but the state government took no action and “allowed” it to thrive.

Referring to two instances to reinforce its claims the CBI pointed to a “larger conspiracy” behind the scam. The first instance the agency cited was that Rs 6.21 crore was given to a TV channel that is part of the Saradha Group, secondly, the agency referred to the sale of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s paintings amounting to Rs 6.5 crore by a newspaper run by the Trinamool Congress.

The buzz around the scam escalated after Kolkata Police had forcefully detained eight CBI officials who had gone to visit police commissioner Rajeev Kumar to obtain crucial information regarding the scam.

Following this, CM Mamata Banerjee had resorted to ‘dharna’ politics accusing Modi government of indulging in vendetta politics and using CBI to plot a ‘coup’, though the fact was that Mamta Banerjee was allegedly trying to protect Kolkata Commissioner who is accused of destroying key evidence against the perpetrators of the Saradha Chit-fund scam.

Several opposition parties came in the support of Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government.

However, CBI had then approached the Supreme Court, alleging that the state machinery and police were deliberately obfuscating facts and hampering the investigation into the Sardha Chit Fund Scam.

The West Bengal government and police had rejected in the top court allegations made by the CBI that they had obstructed the inquiry into the chit fund scam. The West Bengal Police claimed the CBI had forcibly tried to enter Rajeev Kumar’s official residence on February 3 without valid papers.

SC had given CBI a big relief and had asked Rajeev Kumar to appear before the agency, in Shillong, a place which it deemed was politically neutral. SC had also directed CBI to not to exercise coercive actions like arrest against Kumar.

The Saradha Scam was brought to light in 2013. Many political leaders were connected with this Ponzi scheme that was run by a consortium of over 200 companies. The Saradha Group had reportedly collected more than 200 billion rupees from lakhs of small investors. The Group had collapsed in April 2013 and a year later, the Supreme Court of India had ordered the CBI to take over the investigation from the state SIT.

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