The Supreme Court has dismissed a plea of the West Bengal government challenging a Calcutta High Court order which protected Soumendu Adhikari, brother of BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari, from arrest in a corruption case, saying the petition did not warrant interference now as the charge sheet has been filed.
Soumendu, also a BJP leader, was protected by the Calcutta High Court against any probable coercive action by the West Bengal police on January 31, 2023 in a case of alleged misappropriation of funds while allotting 14 shops at the Rangamati Cremation Ground at Contai in Purba Medinipur.
The case relates to the period when he was the chairperson of Contai municipal body.
A bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chanrachud and Justice J B Pardiwala took note of the fact that now the charge sheet has been filed and a local court has taken cognisance of it. The court said, hence, there was no need to adjudicate the plea of the state government challenging the high court order.
“In pursuance of the impugned order of the High Court dated January 31, 2023, it is common ground that the charge sheet was submitted before the competent court on February 21, 2023 and cognisance has been taken on March 22… In this view of the matter, the Special Leave Petition does not warrant interference at this stage. The Special Leave Petition is accordingly dismissed,” the bench ordered.
The high court, while refusing to quash the criminal case against the BJP leader, had passed a slew of directions to protect him from coercive actions.
“However during investigation, the investigating authority shall not take any coercive action/measure including arrest against the petitioner, so long as the petitioner will make cooperation with the investigating agency,” it had said.
It had said that if at any stage of investigation, the probe agency felt that the accused was not co-operating then it can issue a show cause notice to him.
“No coercive measure/action including arrest against the petitioner in the present case shall be carried out during investigation in connection with such notice to show cause for a period of 10 (ten) days from the date of receipt of such notice to show cause by the petitioner, to enable him to avail of his remedies, if any, before appropriate authority,” it had said.
The high court had also said the questioning of Soumendu “shall also be made by audio-video electronic means”.
The high court, while refusing to quash the FIR, had said that it will not go into the merits and facts of the case which will be looked into by the trial court.
It had said that the allegations levelled against the accused in the FIR, lodged on June 29, last year, were “serious in nature including, hatching a criminal conspiracy in allotment of 14 (fourteen) number of shops at a throwaway price, causing thereby loss in the public exchequer and public interest”.
Soumendu alleged he had become an eyesore for the state’s ruling TMC after he quit the state’s ruling party and joined the BJP.