New Delhi, May 26
The Supreme Court on Friday refused to stay the ED and CBI probes against TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee in connection with the school jobs for cash scam even as it stayed an order of the Calcutta High Court imposing a cost of Rs 25 lakh on him.
A vacation bench of Justices JK Maheshwari and PS Narasimha listed for hearing in July Banerjee’s plea against the high court's May 18 order dismissing a petition filed by him seeking recall of a previous order of the high court which said probe agencies such as the CBI and ED could interrogate him in the case.
"Re-list in the week commencing July 10. Till the next date of listing, the imposition of the cost part by the impugned order shall remain stayed," the Bench said.
The Bench, however, issued notice on Banerjee’s petition against the Calcutta High Court’s order allowing the ED and the CBI to interrogate him in the case.
Noting that the imposition of cost of Rs 25 lakh was "perhaps not warranted", Justice Narasimha said, "But then, it does not mean that no cost can be imposed at all…. I think the order is a very balanced and fair order."
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Banerjee, asserted that his client had nothing to do with the batch of cases relating to the recruitment scam. He said the Supreme Court had directed to reassign the case from the Bench of Justice Abhijit Gangopadhyay to another Bench and accordingly the matter was assigned to Justice Amrita Sinha. The new Bench didn’t examine the matter afresh as was required, he added.
On behalf of the ED, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju said the high court order only gave liberty to the CBI and the ED to interrogate Banerjee. "The order only said "investigate if you want". Independently of that order, ED has power of investigation. That power is unfettered, it cannot be usurped," Raju submitted.
Banerjee, who was on May 20 questioned for over nine hours by the CBI in connection with the probe into the case, has sought the apex court direction that no coercive steps be taken against him by the agency.
The TMC MP's name cropped up in a complaint filed by Kuntal Ghosh, a local businessman and an accused in the school jobs scam, where he alleged that central investigating agencies were pressing him to name Banerjee, who is the general secretary of the TMC, in the case.
The ED summons came within 24 hours of the Calcutta High Court dismissing a petition filed by Banerjee seeking recall of a previous court order, which said probe agencies such as the CBI and ED could interrogate him in the teacher recruitment scam case.
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