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Dangerous Precedent


If Mamata Banerjee claims that the attempt by the CBI to interrogate the Kolkata Police Commissioner was a vindictive act in response to her refusal to allow BJP leaders to land their helicopters in Bengal and hold rallies, then its seems the Centre struck at a very sensitive spot. She has over-reacted many times out of proportion, to the point that many constitutional proprieties were violated. Certainly, she had no business to ask the nation’s uniformed forces, including the Army, to stand against the Union Government. She may think such a development would favour her, but God forbid they should take her suggestion seriously in pursuit of interests they identify with. It would seem that the Police Commissioner is a vulnerability she cannot afford to have the BJP exploit.
Of course, this is all politics and whoever wins the elections will feel justified. However, the Supreme Court has a number of issues to look into in an investigation that is being conducted by the CBI at its behest. Are there people too high to be treated by the CBI in a manner similar to the way it would some unknown miscreant in a village? Are the rules different for these special people? As the BJP has pointed out, all those gathering in Kolkata to extend support have more than one serious criminal case against them – some are even out on bail.
In the normal course, anyone who is raided or interrogated illegally by the CBI should immediately summon a lawyer and the media so that the injustice is exposed. There is the right to remain silent. And, of course, the courts can be approached. The effectiveness of this is evident from the success the so-called Urban Naxals have had in benefiting from such legal safeguards. However, a police officer and his political cohort – in this case, the Chief Minister – do not have the right to misuse the constitutional powers they have to issue illegal orders to their subordinates on obstructing CBI officials in the performance of their duties. Manhandling officers, intimidating their families, keeping them in illegal confinement and sending mobs to surround their offices are serious crimes, for which any ordinary citizen would normally face severe punishment. Are Mamata Banerjee and the Police Commissioner exempt for any reason?
Unfortunately, all these politicians are aware that the judicial processes are extremely slow and, before anything happens, it is possible they would themselves be in power. It would all then go away, as has often been the case in the past. As for the spirit of the Constitution, it is lost somewhere in the labyrinths of the Supreme Court.