In a major jolt to the CBI, the Calcutta High Court on Tuesday granted anticipatory bail to senior IPS officer Rajeev Kumar in the Saradha ponzi scam case.
The High Court’s Division Bench asked Kumar, who is presently the Additional Director General, West Bengal Criminal Investigation Department, to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000 and two persons as surety in order to get the relief.
The bench of Justices S. Munshi and S. Dasgupta ordered Kumar to present himself before the Central Bureau of Investigation whenever they summoned him for questioning related to the multi-crore scam probe.
At the same time, the court asked the CBI to give a 48-hour notice to Kumar whenever they wanted to question him as part of the probe.
The judges did not find merit in the CBI plea for Kumar’s custodial interrogation at this stage of the interrogation and said he would be granted bail immediately if the probe agency arrested him in connection with the case.
The court, however, said that the CBI was free to move an appeal to a higher judiciary against the order.
Kumar moved his anticipatory bail application before the Division Bench on September 24 alleging that the federal probe agency was “hounding” him. The hearing was held “in-camera” following a plea by the IPS officer’s counsel.
On September 21, Kumar suffered a setback in his bid to secure pre-arrest bail when the Alipore District and Sessions Court rejected his plea.
Prior to that, the CBI had moved a petition for issuing a non-bailable arrest warrant against Kumar in the Alipore court, which disposed of it saying the former Kolkata Police Commissioner could be arrested by the CBI in accordance with law if it felt that it was required.
The judiciary had earlier given Kumar interim protection on May 30 and then extended it multiple times till the Calcutta High Court withdrew the protection on September 13.
The CBI had in May sent a notice to Kumar asking him to appear before it and later issued a lookout notice against him alerting all airports and immigration authorities against him leaving the country.
He earlier appeared before the CBI in February and June and was grilled by the sleuths.
According to the CBI, they had later sent him half a dozen notices since then, but the senior cop did not appear even once before the sleuths.
Kumar, as the then Commissioner of Bidhannagar Commissionerate, headed the special investigation team (SIT) set up by the state government in 2013 that probed the ponzi scam.
The Supreme Court on May 2014 handed over the case to the CBI, which has accused him of tampering with evidence and not handing over crucial documents connected with the case.
The Saradha scandal came to light in April 2014, when the group companies closed shop one after another across Bengal after being unable to pay back the depositors — mainly poor people who, lured by the promise of huge returns, parked their life’s savings with the firms.
As the company was busted, there was a spate of suicides by agents and investors and protests across the state.
Saradha Group promoter Sudipta Sen as also his close associate Debjani Mukherjee is behind bars now.