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FIR against CBI officials, preventing ED from questioning accused- Here is how TMC is trying to derail the cattle-smuggling probe

WB Police booked several CBI officers in a custodial death case, and arrested TMC leader Anubrata Mondal before she could be taken to Delhi by ED

The Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government in West Bengal is leaving no stone unturned to obstruct the investigation of the cattle smuggling case. TMC is playing one trick after the other to hinder the CBI and ED from conducting probe and questioning the accused TMC’s ‘Bahubali’ leader Anubrata Mondal. 

Apparently, the state police are also aiding the TMC government in its desperate designs for reasons best known to them only. 

On March 21 this year, Badu Sheikh, the deputy chief of the nearby TMC-controlled Barshal gram panchayat was killed in a bomb attack. 

In order to avenge Sheikh’s death, ten people were massacred in Bogtui village in Birbhum wherein a house was locked from outside by the attackers before it was set on fire killing 10 persons including an eight-year-old child. Following the incident, the Calcutta High Court ordered the CBI to investigate the Bogtui carnage as well as Badu Sheikh’s murder.

Lalan Sheikh, the right-hand man of Badu Sheikh and an accused in the Bogtui carnage was arrested by the CBI on December 3  after an eight-month-long hunt. However, in a shocking turn of events, the TMC associate allegedly committed suicide in CBI custody on December 12. Lalan Sheikh was found dead at CBI camp office in Rampurhat in Birbhum.

Taking leverage of the opportunity that Lalan’s alleged death gave, the TMC carried out its plan to attempt to obstruct the CBI probe and shield Anubrata Mondol, a close aide of Mamata Banerjee and an accused in the multi-crore cattle smuggling case.

West Bengal’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID) served a notice to CBI seeking an explanation for the death of Lalan Sheikh. Earlier, the state police registered FIR against CBI officials charging them with Lalan Sheikh’s murder on the basis of a complaint lodged by deceased Lalan’s wife Reshma Bibi. 

Seven CBI officers were named in the FIR file by WB police alleging the custodial murder of Sheikh, including two senior CBI officers not directly linked to the case, a Deputy Inspector General (DIG) and a Superintendent of Police (SP). CBI’s investigating officer in the Bogtui massacre case has also been named in the case. CBI’s Investigating Officer (IO) of the cattle smuggling case Susanta Bhattacharya, who was arrested in August this year by Bengal police, has also been named in the FIR.

However, CBI moved Calcutta High Court against the FIR, and the court directed the police to not take coercive action against the CBI officers, but allowed them to continue the probe. CBI maintains that Sheikh died by suicide.

The state police filed the FIR after Lalan Sheikh’s family filed a complaint against the CBI officers. They had alleged that the CBI officers in the Rampurhat camp had tortured Lalan Sheikh to force him to falsely implicate senior TMC leaders as masterminds of the Birbhum massacre. In another complaint, Lalan’s wife Reshma Bibi alleged that several items sealed by the CBI officers went missing from her residence.

The question here arises is if Reshma Bibi was instructed by someone to lodge a complaint that too by naming senior CBI officials and the Investigating Officer. The quick action by the state police in registering FIR and retaining the names of CBI officers as accused suggests that it was being done deliberately to intimidate the central probe agency.

In its report, Swarajya pointed out the pattern in which the TMC government and the West Bengal police have been taking measures to derail the probe using intimidation tactics and implicating CBI officials on false charges.

Quoting a CBI officer as saying, Swarajya reported, “These are patently false complaints. There is no way she (Reshma Bibi) knew the names of the senior officers including the investigating Officer of the cattle smuggling case which totally unrelated to Lalan sheikh’s death. It is very apparent that Reshma Bibi was tutored to name CBI officers in her complaint.”

Other than this, the West Bengal police recently took TMC leader Anubrata Mondal into its custody in what looked like an attempt to prevent the Enforcement Directorate from taking Mondal to Delhi for questioning. 

On December 19, Hours after a court in New Delhi granted a production warrant to ED to bring Mondal to the national capital for questioning, an FIR was lodged against Anubrata Mondal in connection with an alleged attempt to murder in 2021. 

Interestingly, Shibthakur Mondal, a local Panchayat leader belonging to the TMC filed a complaint alleging that Anubrata Mondal had “nearly choked him to death” ahead of the state assembly in 2021 during a party meeting in Dubrajpur. 

On December 20, Anubrata Mondal was produced before a local court in Birbhum’s Dubrajpur, where the court sent Anubrata Mondal into seven-day police custody. As Anubrata Mondal challenged the production warrant, ED gave an oral assurance to the court that it will not execute the production warrant till January 9.

It is pertinent to mention that Anubrata Mondal’s counsel did not even move a bail plea saying that everything happened suddenly.  “We are trying to understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.

The timing of the FIR raises suspicion that the Mamata Banerjee government is deliberately doing such tricks to prevent ED from taking Anubrata Mondal to Delhi for questioning. Being aware of the tricks being played ED will also be planning to take certain steps to avert any sort of interference in the probe and intimidation of the officers who are just doing their duty, the TMC government.

On 11 August, The CBI arrested Trinamool Congress (TMC) Birbhum district president Anubrata Mondal in relation to the cattle smuggling case

The CBI has claimed to have recovered assets worth several crores of rupees that Mondal had reportedly registered in the names of his daughter, family members, and other close associates. The central agency believes that TMC Bahubali may have attempted to divert the scam’s proceeds through lottery prizes several times.

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