Another CID team visiting Guwahati to collect CCTV footage of the three MLAs’ arrival in the city on July 29 and departure to Kolkata the next day was allegedly stopped by the local police at the airport, stoking the political storm already brewing over the Delhi face-off. Trinamool MPs staged a walkout from the Rajya Sabha, alleging attempts to impede a probe that could unearth the suspected conspiracy to destabilise the JMM-led Hemant Soren government in Jharkhand.
A Congress MLA from the state, Kumar Jaimangal, had filed an FIR in Ranchi last week, accusing Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma of orchestrating the attempt to topple the Soren government by getting the arrested trio – Irfan Ansari (Jamtara), Rajesh Kachchap (Khijri) and Naman Bixal Kongari (Kolebira) — to throw cash at some of their legislator colleagues.
The latest face-off became public after a spurt of tweets from the Bengal CID’s official handle at 10.50am, detailing how a four-member team was prevented from “doing their lawful duty” by searching the home of Siddharth Majumdar at Anand Niketan under southwest police district.
“Personal intervention of @CPDelhi is requested,” said one of the tweets accompanying a scanned copy of the court’s search warrant.
Ten minutes later, another tweet from the handle said the CID team not being allowed to “conduct a lawful search” could “lead to the disappearance of crucial evidence”, for which the police officers who intervened would be held responsible.
Delhi Police accused the visiting team of violating rules. “Initially, Delhi Police provided all necessary assistance to WB Police for the execution of the search warrant,” DCP (southwest) Manoj C said. “However, legal discrepancies were noticed during the execution of the warrant. Accordingly, legal opinion was sought, which revealed that the warrant is not executable. The same was conveyed to WB Police.”
An official at the local police station said one of the alleged discrepancies was the designated investigating officer in the case not being present for the search, as mandated by law. A CID delegation led by IGP Pranav Kumar rushed to Delhi to take care of the legalities.
In Guwahati, a senior Assam Police official contested Bengal CID’s allegation that its team was stopped and escorted out of the airport when they tried to gather CCTV footage and other evidence of the three Jharkhand MLAs visiting the city just before their arrest in Howrah and the seizure of Rs 49 lakh from their car.
“We normally do not ask police teams coming to our state about the nature of their investigation. We extend all help and cooperation from our side. We are also helping the West Bengal team, and they have been moving around doing their work in vehicles provided by us,” he said.
Trinamool MPs raised the issue in Parliament, with Rajya Sabha member Dola Sen seeking a reply to a supplementary question that wasn’t allowed. The speaker’s decision immediately triggered a walkout.
“ Daal mein kuch kaala hain (something is fishy). Delhi Police officers can come to Bengal and raid whichever place they want, but when our CID team goes to Delhi for a probe, they are stopped. What is their problem in allowing the investigation? Is this an attempt to suppress and move evidence using Delhi Police?” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
The CID claimed Majumdar, whose house was to be searched, was a Congress supporter who had lately “become close to a key political figure in Assam with a major say in northeast politics”. The agency claimed Majumdar was the “middleman” who took the three Jharkhand MLAs to Guwahati a couple of times since July 20 to meet “senior political functionaries”.
The CID also alleged that it was on Majumdar’s instruction that Rs 49 lakh was funnelled to Kolkata “through hawala channel” to a now absconding Salt Lake-based businessman, who then passed the cash to the three MLAs. Sources close to Majumdar refuted the allegations.
Congress suspended the three MLAs last Sunday.