Kolkata: CBI officers questioned TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee, who appeared before them Saturday as part of the agency’s probe into the school jobs scam, for more than six hours.
Before reaching CBI offices at Nizam Palace here, Banerjee wrote a letter to the CBI informing it of his decision to move the Supreme Court challenging the High Court order which allows investigative agencies CBI and ED to question him.
CBI officers are believed to have asked the TMC leader why an accused in the school jobs scam Kuntal Ghosh has alleged that he was being pressured to name him, according to sources. Abhishek is believed to have stated that he he has no knowledge of the reasons behind Ghosh’s statement. The TMC leader’s name cropped up in a complaint filed by Kuntal Ghosh where he alleged that central investigating agencies were pressuring him to name Abhishek Banerjee in the school scam case.
In his letter to the CBI, Abhishek had written, ”At the very onset, I state that I am rather shocked to find that the notice under reference was served upon me on 19.05.2023 in the afternoon, directing me to appear before your office at Kolkata at 11.00 am on 20.05.2023, providing me less than a day’s time to comply.”
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Stating that he was in the midst of a two-month-long state-wide yatra to connect with the people of West Bengal, he said that while he wished to cooperate with the agencies and hence was abiding with the summons, it should be noted that he had ” preferred a Special Leave Petition before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of lndia, thereby challenging the order dated 18.05.2023 (passed by Calcutta High Court).”
Earlier in the day, the Enforcement Directorate conducted a raid at the residence of Sujay Krishna Bhadra, considered to be close to TMC top brass, in connection with its probe into the school jobs scam, an official of the central agency said.
The official said the raid which was still on, was carried out at the Behala house of ‘Kalighat er Kaku’ (Kalighat’s uncle) as he is popularly known.
On March 15, Bhadra appeared before the CBI for his alleged involvement in illegal appointments made in different state-run and state-aided schools in West Bengal.
While the Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the criminal aspect of the scam, the ED is looking into the money trail involved in the alleged irregularities in school recruitment.
Abhishek Banerjee, who was on the campaign trail in Bankura in western Bengal, had rushed back to Kolkata Friday night to answer the summons sent by the central investigative agency.
Later on Friday, the TMC leader and nephew of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, had in an impromptu speech delivered from atop his vehicle had, also dared the central agency to arrest him if it has any proof of corruption or misconduct against him.
”I dare the CBI to arrest me if they have any proof of corruption against me,” Abhishek said at a rally in Bankura.
On Thursday, Calcutta High Court dismissed a petition filed by Banerjee seeking recall of a previous court order, which said that investigative agencies such as CBI and ED could interrogate him in the teacher recruitment scam.
An attempt on Friday to get a division bench and, after that, the chief justice of Calcutta High Court to hear his revision plea did not yield results even as ED sent the summons to the TMC leader.
The matter may now be taken up before a vacation bench of the High Court which will sit from Monday onwards.
Reacting to CBI’s questioning, the TMC leadership wondered why the central probe agency never questioned BJP leaders.
Meanwhile, the CBI’s questioning of the top TMC leader kicked off a war of words between Bengal’s ruling party and state’s main opposition BJP, with the TMC leadership wondering why the central probe agency never questioned BJP leaders.
”Abhishek Banerjee and TMC have always cooperated with the CBI and ED probe. But the saffron camp is using central agencies to harass us,” TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said.
He added that on the other hand, ”A person caught on camera taking money is not summoned by CBI as he has joined the BJP,” in an apparent reference to a top BJP leader who defected from TMC.
Reacting to his remarks, the BJP dubbed the allegations as baseless.
”The BJP has nothing to do with the CBI probe. If the TMC leaders have nothing to hide, why are they so bothered about being summoned and making such allegations? If they have anything to say they can always move court,” BJP state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said.