Saradha scam: HC puts Bengal minister under house arrest

The Calcutta High Court on Thursday directed that West Bengal transport and sports minister Madan Mitra, an accused in the multi-billion rupee Saradha chit fund scandal, will be kept in under house arrest under police guard till a Central Bureau of Investigation plea for cancellation of his bail is decided.

Mitra's house arrest would start after he is released from a hospital where he is currently undergoing treatment.

Hearing the CBI plea, a vacation division bench of Justices Joymalya Bagchi and Mir Dara Sheko observed that Mitra being a cabinet minister could influence witnesses if he remained free.

The judges barred the minister from leaving his house save for a medical emergency or if the CBI needed him in connection with its investigation into the scam.

 CBI counsel K Raghavacharyulu submitted that the Alipore Court had acted in haste to grant bail to the minister.

He argued the CBI was not sent any notice by the sessions court about the bail hearing on 31 October, which violated Section 439 (1) (b) of the Code of Criminal Procedure that mandates serving of such notice to the public prosecutor. As such, the bail order was illegally passed.

The vacation judges said the matter needed to be heard on merit and so a regular bench, preferably one which had heard Mitra's bail petition in the past, should hear the CBI's plea, once the court reopens on 16 November.

Mitra was asked to file an affidavit on the CBI's petition by 13 November, while the probe agency would file its counter by 17 November when a regular bench would hear the matter.

Indicted by the agency for cheating, conspiracy and criminal breach of trust in the multi-crore-rupee scam, Mitra, was granted bail by a lower court on Saturday, nearly 11 months after his arrest on 12 December last year.

Mitra, who was under treatment in the state-run SSKM hospital where he had spent most of his incarceration period, left for home on Sunday after a medical board gave him a fit certificate.

On Tuesday, the CBI moved the Calcutta High Court seeking cancellation of the bail, and around the same time Mitra was admitted to a private hospital in the city.

A five member medical board has been constituted to look after the minister, who has been admitted with complaints of chest pain, mild breathlessness and erratic sleep pattern, the hospital said in a statement.

According to jail authorities, Mitra spent less than 50 days in prison since he was sent to judicial custody on 19 December.