t is a no-win situation for both sides as the Supreme Court gave its interim order on the Kolkata stand-off between the CBI represented by the Centre, and the West Bengal government that stood solidly behind the police commissioner in the eastern metropolis. The apex court gave an ear to both sides and showed a way out to end the impasse. There is some relief at the end of two days of grim happenings that brought to the fore serious odds facing the federal structure of governance enshrined in the Constitution.
On one side, the Supreme Court has granted permission to the CBI to grill the city police chief – something that the senior cop was evading for the past few years. His role as chief of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that went into the Saradha and Rose Valley chit fund scam of epic proportions, with grave political overtones, came under a shadow after accusations came that he delayed and diluted the case, and that some important documents were deliberately kept away. Under the circumstances, the apex court gave the nod for investigations to go forward. At the same time, the court gave an ear to the commissioner’s objections to the CBI move against him. He was, it now transpires, ready to be questioned outside the state. The apex court took note of his sentiments and fixed Shillong as the meeting point.
The larger question was of the obstructions from the part of the state police and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, effected to thwart a grilling or likely arrest of the commissioner. An unprecedented situation had arisen, of detention of a team of CBI officials by the state police. This case would come up for judicial scrutiny on February 20. The CBI has been accused of acting under motivation or being guided by extraneous factors like settling political scores with the CM. CBI also took a hit for the unprofessional way it went about doing its job. Notably the failure on the part of the senior cop to turn up for questioning despite repeated summons was not taken seriously for years, and then, all of a sudden, CBI chose to act against the cop. CBI as also the Centre ended up with egg on its face. Centre-state relations took a new hit; reason why almost the entire Opposition rushed to support Banerjee and made vociferous protests for two days in Parliament.
Perceived failures on the part of CBI are bound to come under scrutiny. India, in recent times under the Modi government, has lost more of its institutional strengths. The RBI, too, took major hits under this administration post Demonetisation. The Centre-state fight in Kolkata brought out the political strengths of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. She made it abundantly clear, yet again, that she would fight back any attempt at usurpation of states’ powers. It must be emphasised that Opposition-ruled states, including Odisha, are one with the West Bengal CM on this count. This is time for serious introspection on the federal structure of this country and the preservation of this important distribution of power placed in the Constitution.