The Trinamool Congress leaders, for the past several months, have been preparing themselves to face summons, interrogation, and what their arguments would be in the Narada sting operation case, in which, the CBI on April 16, filed FIR against 12 leaders of the party along with an IPS officer from West Bengal.
To begin with, the party leaders are likely to not agree for a voice spectrography test when the CBI's Special Investigating Team (SIT) calls them for such a voice test. This bit of the investigation is very essential to establish that the persons seen on the video footages are actually the Trinamool leaders against whom the FIR has been lodged.
The refusal to appear for spectrography test may not go in favour of Trinamool Congress leaders in subsequent stages as the case progresses, but a section of the leadership feels that this is also a battle of nerves that needs to be fought. And therefore, refusal to the voice test would be essential, said a Trinamool Congress insider.
The PTI reported on a judgment of January 2017, in which the Gujarat High Court ruled that "in the absence of any provision empowering the police officer or the court, it is not permissible to subject an accused to the voice spectrography test." The court had also asked the state government to consider framing rules and to explore the possibility of including voice sample tests on the accused.
On April 16, the CBI filed its FIR against 12 leaders of the Trinamool Congress and an IPS officer from West Bengal, under section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code and 13 (1) (a) and (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 in connection with the Narada sting operations which the Calcutta High Court had asked them to investigate. The first section deals with criminal conspiracy and the second one deals with criminal misconduct by a public servant. Sources say that several other names may be added to this list of 13 at a later stage.
The Trinamool Congress had moved Supreme Court against the High Court order that asked the CBI to investigate the case. But the apex court too asked the CBI to conduct an investigation and gave the investigating agency one month's time for the initial probe.
Those seen on the videos were either accepting the bundles from a journalist (who posed as an agent of a fictitious company) or directing him to places and persons with whom these should be given.
In March 2016, the sting operation videos – the sting operation was conducted by the Narada News CEO Mathew Samuel two years before that – were released, in which several persons who looked similar to Trinamool Congress ministers and an IPS officer from West Bengal, were seen accepting what looks like cash. Those seen on the videos were either accepting the bundles from a journalist (who posed as an agent of a fictitious company) or directing him to places and persons with whom these should be given.
Persons resembling Kolkata Mayor Sovon Chatterjee, Trinamool Congress MPs Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Sougata Roy, Aparupa Poddar, Prasun Banerjee, Sultan Ahmed and IPS officer S.M.H. Mirza were seen accepting what looked like cash (persons resembling state urban development minister Firhad Hakim and MP Mukul Roy were not seen receiving the bundles). The others seen in the video footage were persons resembling senior leaders Subhendu Adhikary, Subrata Mukherjee, Iqbal Ahmed, Madan Mitra.
Sources said the Trinamool Congress leadership may even argue that the bundles given to those who resemble the Trinamool leaders were not currency notes at all. "It is not clear from the video footage whether those are currency notes," said a source on condition of anonymity. The CBI has had no "recovery" of the money so far, and therefore, this may be considered for an argument.
The leaders have at various times said that these were "donations" to the party, and not "bribe", and that there were "receipts" for the money taken. Since there are different versions from different leaders on this aspect, it remains to be seen what exactly is the official argument of the party leaders on the currency notes when they are actually called for interrogation.
Mamata Banerjee has stated that the case involving the Narada sting operations is a political battle, and that her party will fight it out.
Sources said that it is most likely that IPS officer S.M.H. Mirza would be the first one to be summoned by the CBI for interrogation, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, which says that a public servant cannot take any "gratification" other than legal remuneration.
Mamata Banerjee has stated that the case involving the Narada sting operations is a political battle, and that her party will fight it out. But whichever way the Trinamool Congress leadership wants to look at it – whether legal and/or political – it is still a long battle ahead that Bengal's ruling party will have to fight.