South Asian Insider
How CBI's Plea in SC Lays Ground for President's Rule in Bengal
(Agencies) - West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is taking her fight against the Modi government to Delhi next week, where she will be joined by several Opposition leaders who claim they are standing up for the Constitution, human rights and the rule of law.
But even as she prepares to lead the charge to dethrone Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the next general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party appears to have plans of its own to wrest power from Didi and her Trinamool Congress in West Bengal. To do this, they're not going to rely on their oft-used modus operandi - no Operation Kamals, no rath yatras, no polarisation campaigns.
Instead, it looks like they're going to do this one by the book, and try to impose President's Rule in the state. Moreover, this isn't going to be like the Uttarakhand fiasco, where they shot from the hip and had their decision overturned by the high court. No, this time they're looking to get judicial approval or at least acquiescence for their reasoning before they pull the trigger.
Why should we believe this to be the case? After all, messages are being sent to the media (see for example this piece in The Hindu) saying that President's Rule is noton the cards, despite calls for it by BJP leaders like Rakesh Sinha and Babul Supriyo. The devil is in the details, though, and the details of the CBI affidavit filed in the Supreme Court earlier this week appear to be the first tentative step towards President's Rule in West Bengal.
What the CBI Affidavit Says
The Central Bureau of Investigation has filed two pleas in the Supreme Court. The first is an application for a direction by the court to the West Bengal authorities (including the Kolkata Police and Commissioner Rajeev Kumar) to cooperate with the CBI and not impede their investigation of the chit fund scams. The second is a contempt petition which alleges that the West Bengal authorities have failed to comply with the Supreme Court's judgment dated 9 May 2014, which ordered them to cooperate with the CBI, to whom the judges had transferred these investigations. When they mentioned these pleas before the court on Monday, Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi took exception to how the CBI was claiming they were afraid Kumar was planning to destroy electronic evidence, without any proof or evidence to back up this claim. The bench instructed the CBI to submit proof of Kumar's intent to destroy evidence before the hearing on Tuesday.
In this, not only did they claim that Kumar was intending to destroy evidence, they also alleged that he had already tampered with electronic evidence like call logs, withheld some evidence, and coordinated with the accused persons in the case. True to form, they failed to provide any evidence in the affidavit to back up these claims, but assured the judges they would provide them with relevant proof in a "sealed cover" (of course). After 20 poorly-worded and repetitive paragraphs which at least relate specifically to the application and petition, the affidavit then takes a detour in para 21 to decry the detention of the CBI officers who tried to enter Rajeev Kumar's house on Sunday, and the alleged holding of the CBI Joint Director and his family hostage by the Kolkata Police on the same day.It is understandable that the CBI would want to draw attention to the way in which they were thwarted by the West Bengal authorities, since they want such obstruction to stop. However, the affidavit goes far beyond pointing out these concerns, and instead offers an interpretation of the events that raises the stakes. It begins with these lines:It's the specific usage of the wording "breakdown of the constitutional machinery" that makes the intentions of the CBI (read: the central government) clear.
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