CBI-Kolkata police standoff echoes in Parliament

NEW DELHI: Describing as “unprecedented” the Kolkata Police action against a CBI team, Home Minister Rajnath Singh on Monday told Parliament this would lead to anarchy and pose a threat to the federal system and warned that the Centre has the powers to deal with the “constitutional breakdown” in West Bengal.

As the tense standoff between the CBI and the Kolkata police for the second day echoed in Parliament and led to a washout of the proceedings following opposition protests, Singh called as unfortunate the action by the Kolkata police against a team of CBI officers over the central agency’s attempt to question its chief in connection with chit fund scams.

In the Lok Sabha, members of West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) were joined in their protest by those from the Congress, BJD, NCP, SP and RJD. They slammed the Centre over the move by the Central Bureau of Investigation(CBI) and its timing with many of them accusing the Modi government of misusing the central agency for political ends ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.

After repeated adjournments, both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha were adjourned for the day hours earlier than schedule after opposition members created a ruckus.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee Sunday began a sit-in protest in Kolkata over the CBI’s attempt to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar.

A CBI team, which went to Kumar’s residence in the city’s Loudon Street area, was denied permission, bundled into police jeeps and whisked to a police station on Sunday.

Amid noisy protests by the TMC members, Singh told the Lok Sabha the police action was “unprecedented” since the CBI was stopped from lawfully doing its duty when it wanted to question Kumar regarding the chit fund scams.

Making a statement in the Lok Sabha on the prevailing situation in Kolkata, Singh described the action against the CBI probe team as “unprecedented” in the history of the country and a threat to the federal political system of the country.

“There may be constitutional breakdown in West Bengal... Under the Constitution, the central government has been vested with the power to maintain normalcy in any part of the country,” he said.

“Whatever happened on Sunday, it indicates constitutional breakdown,” Singh said amid din in the House.

The CBI officers were obstructed and detained by the police during the discharge of their lawful duties, Singh said.

“Such confrontation between the law enforcement agencies of the country is not only unfortunate, but it is also dangerous for the federal and democratic polity of this country.