CBI files new case in Bengal despite withdrawal of general state consent
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted searches at 45 locations in four states on Saturday after recording a case against suspected coal thief Anup Manjhi, who was suspected of collusion with two CEOs and three staff members of the Eastern Coalfields Ltd (ECL) security, people familiar with the matter said.
The searches spread across West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh, they said. The IWC registered the case even though the West Bengal government had withdrawn its general consent to the agency on November 18, 2018. This is the fifth FIR (First Information Report) registered by the agency in the state bound for elections this year without the West Bengal government assent.
The four previous FIRs were presented in the months of September and October 2020, on accusations related to financial irregularities involving officials from the coal ministry in a case of organization of a central provident fund; against a commander of the Border Security Force (BSF) regarding cattle smuggling; against two scientists from the Bureau of Indian Standard (BIS); and a case against a former Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharati University.
The CBI officially declined to comment on the matter, but at least two officials, who did not want to be named, said the agency was using the influence provided in a judgment of the Calcutta high court on March 12 this year in Ramesh Chandra. Singh & Others Vs. CBI.
The higher court had observed in its order that “the power of the central government / CBI to investigate and prosecute its own officials cannot be impeded or interfered in any way by the state, even if the crimes were committed within the territory of the state.” . Ramesh Chandra Singh was a central government employee who was being investigated for disproportionate assets long before blanket consent was withdrawn. He had challenged the jurisdiction of the IWC in the state.
A CBI official said: “The high court gave us an opportunity to present cases in West Bengal. As the high court has mentioned, we now do not need permission from the state government to bring cases against central government officials. ”
TMC leader and West Bengal Minister Dr. Shashi Panja said: “All allies have defected from the NDA (National Democratic Alliance). Some of his most trusted allies still remain: CBI, ED, etc. It’s election season, so Modi-Shah is here again. ”
West Bengal is among the eight states that have withdrawn the mandatory general consent granted under section 6 of the DSPE Act for investigations in their jurisdictions. The other seven states are: Rajasthan, Mizoram, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Kerala, and Chhattisgarh. Opposition states have alleged that the government is using the IWC to attack them.
After presenting the most recent case on Friday night, CBI teams raided 45 locations in West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh and recovered 40 lakh in cash and various documents.
Reserveds include Anup Manjhi aka Lala, ECL General Managers Amit Kumar Dhar (Pandaveswar area) and Jayesh Chandra Rai (Kajora area) plus ECL Chief of Security Tanmay Das, Area Security Inspector Kunustoria Dhananjay Rai and security officer Debashish Mukherjee.
CBI spokesman RK Gaur said the “agency had information from reliable sources indicating illegal excavation and theft of coal in the ECL lease area in collusion with officials from ECL, Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) and Railways ”.