New Delhi: Justice L Nageswara Rao on Wednesday recused himself from hearing the CBI's plea alleging obstruction in its probe into the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam probe by West Bengal authorities.
A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Rao and Sanjiv Khanna adjourned the hearing on pleas of the CBI, saying that one of the judges was not inclined to be part of the bench to hear the matter.
Justice Rao said that he had appeared for the state as a lawyer and therefore cannot hear the case. The bench has now posted the matter for hearing on February 27 before an appropriate bench of which Justice Rao is not a part.
On February 18, West Bengal Chief secretary Malay Kumar De, DGP Virendra Kumar and the then Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar had filed separate affidavits in the apex court on the contempt petition moved by the CBI in connection with the scam and had tendered "unconditional and unambiguous apology".
The West Bengal government and its police had refuted CBI allegations in the apex court that they obstructed the investigation into the Saradha chit fund scam cases, with the state cops charging that the central agency forcefully tried to enter the Kolkata police commissioner's residence on February 3 without valid papers.
The trio maintained that the West Bengal government and the state police at no point of time obstructed investigation nor any official denied cooperation to CBI.
The officers had opposed the contempt petition against them in which CBI alleged that they were tampering with evidence and not complying with the apex court's various orders relating to the probe by asserting that there was a need for directions to the probe agency not to make any vague allegations without substantial and cogent evidence.
Referring to the February 3 incident, Kumar had said in his affidavit that CBI "forcibly" tried to enter his house without valid papers. The contention has been supported by the DGP in his affidavit. They had also claimed that no police official went on 'dharna manch' where West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee sat to protest the CBI action.
The DGP and Kumar had said that no police officer, in uniform or otherwise at any given point in time, ever sat or joined the dharna along with Banerjee. Kumar had said it was "very intriguing" as to why a major decision by the CBI was taken to interrogate him on February 3, which was the last day in office of the then interim CBI director M Nageswara Rao.
Kumar, against whom CBI has alleged tampering of electronic evidence including call detail records, had said he was never in direct possession of evidence, material or documents. They had responded to the notices issued on February 5 by the apex court which had asked them to clarify their stand on the allegation that evidence was tampered with and the state police was not cooperating with the Central Bureau of Investigation. The apex court had on February 4 said that "if the police commissioner is even remotely trying to destroy evidence, we will come down so heavily on him that he will regret".