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Chit fund case: SC dismayed over feud between CBI, WB Police

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New Delhi, May 17 (PTI) The Supreme Court Friday expressed "disappointment and dismay" over the feud between CBI and West Bengal Police during probe into the Saradha chit fund scam case and said though the situation was "grim", there was no administrative mechanism to avoid or resolve such conflicts. While withdrawing the protection from arrest granted earlier by it to former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in the case, the apex court said that despite orders and words of advice, "antagonism and acrimony" has escalated between the two forces of the country. A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that due to the "clash" between the Central Bureau of Investigation and West Bengal Police, lakhs of small town and rural investors who have been deprived of their savings in the case are "at the receiving end". "They (CBI and West Bengal Police) have forgotten that the primary purpose and role of the police is to investigate crime, collect evidence and prosecute the offenders. Situation is grim as both sides have hardened their stand and there is no administrative mechanism in place to avoid and resolve such conflicts between the two wings of the police force in the country," said the bench, also comprising Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna. The bench noted that by slew of orders passed in the case, including the one on February 5 this year, granting protection from arrest to Kumar, the apex court had sought to "allay confrontation and clash" between the CBI and the Police Force in the State of West Bengal (WBSPF). "With regret, we acknowledge and accept that despite orders and words of advice, antagonism and acrimony has escalated and not ebbed as is evident from the pleading and arguments addressed before us," the bench said. "To avoid prolixity and as limited controversy arises for consideration, we are not referring the earlier orders for the purpose of the present judgment, albeit express our disappointment and dismay seeing the CBI and the WBSPF pitted and casting aspersions against each other and being embroiled in this feud," the court said. Referring to the fued between the two forces, the bench said, "At the receiving end are silently waiting lakhs of small town and rural investors who have been deprived and looted of their savings." It noted that keeping in view the magnitude, plight of investors, inter-state ramifications and need for swift and efficient investigation, the apex court had on May 9, 2014 transferred chit-fund scam cases lodged in different police stations in West Bengal and Odisha from state police agencies to CBI. The apex court said its May 2014 order had required that the state police agencies investigating these cases provide "fullest cooperation" to CBI, including assistance in terms of manpower and material, to enable them to conduct and complete the investigation expeditiously. It said CBI has alleged non-cooperation and charged the West Bengal Police with "obfuscating the investigation by causing impediments and roadblocks with a view to protect big names and members/leaders of the ruling party in the state of West Bengal." It noted that state government, West Bengal Police and Kumar have alleged "political vendetta" and made allegations against former acting CBI Director M Nageswara Rao. Earlier, Kumar had alleged in the apex court that he was targeted by CBI in the chit fund case due to "mala fide intent" and "conflict of interest" of M Nageswara Rao as his family members were under the scanner post-demonetisation. He had alleged that post demonetisation in November 2016, investigation was initiated into some shell companies that prima facie were involved in receiving huge deposits and a FIR was registered. In his affidavit, Kumar had said that during the probe of shell companies, role of one firm Agela Mercantiles Pvt Ltd came under the scanner for collecting money from public unauthorisedly. He had also alleged that during further investigation of the case names of wife and daughter of Rao have come to light and the matter is being further probed. In its Friday's order, the apex court withdrew the protection from arrest granted to Kumar and left it open to CBI to act in accordance with the law. It, however, made it clear that the interim order of February 5 would continue for a period of seven days from today to enable Kumar to approach competent court for relief, if so advised. Kumar was earlier heading the West Bengal Police's special investigation team (SIT) probing the chit fund scam. PTI ABA MNL RKS SA

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