Narada sting operation probe handed over to CBI

The Calcutta High Court has handed over the investigation into the sting operation conducted by ‘Narada News’ to the Central Bureau of Investigation.

The agency has been told to complete a preliminary investigation within 72 hours.

The move follows complaints that the state police faced a conflict of interest in investigating the tapes, which purportedly show several leaders of the ruling Trinamool Congress accepting bribes in return for favors.

It comes as a setback to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose relationship with the central government — which controls the CBI — have been strained of late.

West Bengal’s advocate general, Jayanta Mitra argued before the Calcutta High Court that there was no proof that the money that was being paid to the TMC leaders were in fact bribes or that they had demanded the same.

However, the court noted that in a similar incident involving BJP president Bangaru Laxman, he was tried and convicted under similar circumstances.

The court also dismissed Mitra’s objections on the grounds of delay. He had argued that the incidents are purported to have happened in 2014, but the tapes were leaked in 2016, just before state elections.

Narada News is headed by Kerala-based journalist Mathew Samuel, who was formerly the managing editor of Tehelka news magazine.

The Kolkata High Court had frozen the investigations of the state police into the tapes last year.

The TMC tapes are known to be only part of those made by Narada News.

Allegations and leaks in Kerala have suggested that the portal also conducted sting operations on prominent Kerala politicians and bureaucrats during the time of chief minister Oommen Chandy.

Those tapes, however, are yet to be released or leaked. However, a phone conversation, purportedly containing salacious details of the operation, was leaked earlier this year. No investigations have been conducted on the Kerala tapes.