“He is not a political person now,” West Bengal ex-minister Partha Chatterjee’s lawyer said while pleading for bail today. “He can leave the MLA post if required,” he told the court in Kolkata, as per news agency ANI. Mr Chatterjee, Trinamool Congress legislator from Behala South, was sacked as minister and suspended from the party last week.
The court did not buy the arguments for bail, though. It sent Mr Chatterjee and his aide, actor Arpita Mukherjee, to 14 days of judicial custody.
Arpita Mukherjee did not seek bail but wanted special security measures in jail, which were granted by the Special Court. The ED agreed with the demands — for instance, testing of jail food and water before being served to her — as it, too, said there’s a threat to her life.
Mr Chatterjee and Ms Mukherjee were arrested on July 23 for alleged corruption in hiring of teachers and other staff when he was Education Minister in 2016 in a previous term of Mamata Banerjee’s government. They were in ED custody since. The agency is looking into the money laundering angle in the case that’s being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
After piles of cash were seized from Arpita Mukherjee’s flats, the party took action against Mr Chatterjee and denied any connection with her. He says the case is a conspiracy. Both have denied any connection with the cash and other seizures — as has the Trinamool.
Mr Chatterjee’s lawyer argued today in court, “No one has come out and said that he had asked for bribe, neither in the CBI case nor in ED. Can they show any witness that he has asked for a bribe? Partha Chatterjee is not connected with the crime and the allegations levelled by the CBI are not appropriate.”
“In the ED case, on July 22, when his house was raided nothing has been recovered. If you try to ask a man who is not involved in the crime, he will obviously be non-cooperative,” he added. The agency has alleged that he’s being evasive.
The ED claims to have found many assets that couldn’t be explained by Mr Chatterjee’s income. Investigators have seized around Rs 50 crore in cash, besides gold, from Ms Mukherjee’s flats in Kolkata. This money is “proceeds of crime”, as per the ED.