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Narada sting operation

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The Narada sting operation was a sting operation carried out by Mathew Samuel targeting high-ranking officials and politicians of the All India Trinamul Congress (AITC). It showed several politicians and a high-ranked police officer accepting cash-bribes in exchange for providing unofficial favors to a company.

Performed in 2014 for the Indian news-magazine Tehelka, it was published on a private website months before the 2016 West Bengal Assembly elections.

As of June 2017, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED) and a parliamentary ethics committee are probing the case. The Trinamool Congress has rejected the allegations and has claimed that the money was received in way of donations.

Background[edit]

Mathew Samuel

Mathew Samuel was the former managing editor of Tehelka, a news magazine known for its investigative journalism and sting operations. He was one of the main principals behind the sting operation West End which spawned a miniature democratic crisis in 2001 and eventually led to the resignation of Defence Minister George Fernandes and later, the conviction of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) President Bangaru Laxman.[1]

Around 2014, the Tehelka administration floated the idea of a sting operation in an effort "to come back into the market with a good story; with a bang".[2] Samuel and his team initially opted for either Madhya Pradesh or Himachal Pradesh, but the opportunities never materialized. The ruling government in Madhya Pradesh was led by BJP and Samuel did not wish to be identified as a journalist who solely targeted the BJP governments whilst the political atmosphere of Himachal Pradesh was too quiet to be conducive for a sting operation.

It was around this time the Saradha Group financial scandal surfaced in West Bengal. Samuel felt that the corruption unearthed until then was only "the tip of the iceberg" and the team accordingly zeroed in on the politicians of West Bengal as their target.[2]

Operation[edit]

In an interview with The Telegraph, Mathew Samuel said he was inspired by Israeli Mossad officer Mike Harari. He had asked a friend to create a cover for him as a high official of the fictitious Chennai-based firm Impex Consultancy Solutions. An Aadhaar card in the name of Santhosh Shankaran was issued for Samuel and social-media profiles were created.[3]

While trying to gauge the mood of the public, they chanced upon a taxi-driver who introduced them to a person who was locally known as 'Tiger'.[2][3] Samuel claims that 'Tiger' initially introduced him to Iqbal Ahmed, the then deputy mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation, and IPS officer S. M. H. Mirza. They were then supposedly acquainted with Sultan Ahmed (Iqbal’s brother), Subrata Mukherjee, Firhad Hakim and Aparupa Poddar. Mirza also introduced him to Madan Mitra and Mukul Roy. And, each of these meetings proliferated in the development of further connections. In Samuel's words: "It was almost like a chain reaction".[2]

In the 52 hours of footage photographed by Samuel and his colleague Angel Abraham around 2014, many prominent politicians resembling Members of Parliament Mukul Roy, Saugata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Bannerjee, Suvendu Adhikari and Sultan Ahmad, and state ministers Madan Mitra, Subrata Mukherjee and Firhad Hakim, and Iqbal Ahmed[3][4] were seen accepting alleged bribes in the form of wads of cash in exchange for doing unofficial favours for Impex Consultancy Solutions floated by Samuel himself.[5] One more person named Sujay Bhadra alias Shantu, the then PA of Member of Parliament Abhishek Banerjee who is the nephew of Mamata Banerjee, was also seen in the video together with Karan Sharma, a close aide of Abhishek Banerjee.

Funding[edit]

Whilst Samuel initially claimed that K. D. Singh, a Rajya Sabha MP of the Trinamool Congress and majority owner of Tehelka, was in the dark about the entire operation and he was a 'lone-wolf',[3] he later retracted his claims and asserted that Singh knew and funded the entire operation.[2][6] He claimed that the budget of the operation was initially set at 2,500,000 (equivalent to 2.6 million or US$36,000 in 2018) but was later increased to 8,000,000 (equivalent to 8.4 million or US$120,000 in 2018), as the number of potential targets increased vastly.[2] The police subsequently filed a criminal case against Singh expecting that a large part of the sum might have been harvested from his chit fund business in West Bengal.[7] However, Singh refuted his involvement with any aspect of the sting.[8]

Release[edit]

A edited portion[9] of the sting operation tapes were released to the public through the website naradanews.com after a nearly two-year lag in 2016.[10][11][12] This was attributed by Samuel to the inertia of the Tehelka administration in publishing the tapes.[2]

Reactions[edit]

The Trinamool Congress initially denied any connection with the sting operation, alleging it to be a product of political conspiracy and the video to be entirely forged.[13][14] Trinamool party supremo and the Chief Minister of West Bengal-Mamata Banerjee alleged it to be a smear campaign by the opposition manifesting from vendetta-politics.[15][16] Later, the Trinamool Congress claimed that the money received was in the form of a donation.[17] The subsequent CBI investigations were branded as witch-hunts and to be a product of vested political interests.[14][18][19] Trinamool MP Dinesh Trivedi was noted to be a dissenting voice and asked for the resignation of the accused.[20]

The Communist Party of India (CPIM) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) organised mass protests demanding the resignation of the politicians involved.[21]

Fallout and investigations[edit]

Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal and leader of the All India Trinamool Congress.

Political[edit]

There was apparently no fallout from the sting operation in the 2016 assembly elections, contrary to expectations of Indian media.[22][23] The AITC government returned to power with an absolute majority. This was proclaimed by Mamata Banerjee in her victory speech after the elections as an endorsement of the honesty of the party.[24]

Legal[edit]

On 17 June 2016, the state initiated the first legal measures and ordered a probe by Kolkata police.[25][26][27] Soon, three public-interest litigations from the Indian Congress party and BJP were filed in Calcutta High Court asking for an impartial probe in light of the influential positions held by the accused.[28][29] The State of West Bengal, along with the accused, asked for a probe by the state investigation team or by a special investigation team, while the petitioner pushed for a probe by a central agency.

The local police was also accused of heckling Samuel, after summoning him for running alleged extortion-rings and interrogating him over the sting-issue.[30][31][32]

The state subsequently initiated its own probe which booked Samuel under multiple sections of the IPC 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 500 (defamation), 120(B) (criminal conspiracy) etc.[33] On 5 August 2016, the High Court stayed the state probe for ad infimum, observing that the police cannot run a concurrent investigation along with a court-monitored probe.[34][35]

On 18 March 2017, the state initiated disciplinary proceedings against S. M. H. Meerza, a high-ranking officer in the Indian Police Service.[36] He was the lone person (of all those who were filmed in the video tape to have accepted cash-bribe), to have been subject to some form of sanction by the state.[37]

CBI Investigation[edit]

The CBI was asked to probe the case after the court raised doubts regarding the impartiality of the probe being conducted by the West Bengal Police[38] and the footage was certified as authentic by the Central Forensic Laboratory.[39] Whilst the state objected to the CBI handling the probe, a bench of the Court, presided by Chief Justice Nishita Mhatre subsequently held that the findings of the sting were not undermined by the legality of Mathew Samuel's actions and that an investigation by an impartial agency would be proceeded with.[33][40]

The Supreme Court of India also rejected an appeal by the state, allowing the CBI probe to continue.[41]

On 17 April 2017, the CBI filed a First Information Report against 12 Trinamool leaders for "criminal conspiracy".[42][43] The CBI also subsequently summoned all of the involved figures, to assist in the investigation.[44][45]

Aparupa Poddar confessed to have taken an amount of 3 lakh INR but claimed innocence as to any ulterior motive.[46] She also claimed to have worked per the advice of Iqbal Ahmed.[46] Iqbal Ahmed admitted to have accepted the cash but asserted to have utilized it in the development of a Maidan based sports-club, Mohammedan S.C. (Kolkata).[47][48] Subrata Mukherjee too admitted to have accepted an amount of 3 lakh INR.[49] Sougata Ray rejected the video as forged and claimed that he did not know Samuel.[50] S.M.H. Meerza initially denied accepting any cash but later conceded to the veracity of the tape and claimed that he has donated the entire amount to an orphanage.[51]

The investigation subsequently hit a road-block as certain portions of the footage (a prior to the) were found to be missing from the submitted footage.[52] Samuel claimed to have deleted the non-necessary parts of the footage, whilst transferring them to the laptop from his iPhone and to have forgotten the password for the iPhone folder, which contained the cut-out portions.[52] The CBI subsequently contacted Apple Inc. to retrieve the contents of the folder but whilst denying to share the password citing privacy requirements, they confirmed that the entire sting-footage had indeed been shot by an iPhone.[53] Recent developments indicated that the CBI was in touch with professional hackers to gain access to the folder.[54][55]

Enforcement Directorate investigation[edit]

The Enforcement Directorate is also running a parallel investigation. It has lodged a case about misappropriation of public funds under Anti-Corruption-Act[56] and has issued multiple summons to the accused and Samuel, himself.[57][58][59]

Ethics committee[edit]

Since the sting operation involved Members of Parliament, a Lok Sabha ethics committee was also set up to initiate a probe to determine if the persons committed a breach of privilege of the house concerned.[60] The committee sat only once after the incident.[61]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Samuel, Mathew (14 May 2012). "After Eleven Years, It Stings To Say This..." Outlook.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "₹ 80 lakh for the Narada sting was paid by MP KD Singh". The National Herald. 29 April 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d "7 Days: I spy with my little eye..." The Telegraph. 3 April 2016. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  4. ^ "THE STING IN FULL". The Telegraph. Retrieved 31 July 2018.
  5. ^ "Narada referred to LS ethics committee". The Telegraph. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  6. ^ "তৃণমূল সাংসদ কে ডি সিংহের নির্দেশেই স্টিং অপারেশন, বিস্ফোরক ম্যাথু". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). 20 March 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  7. ^ Majumdar, Arkamoy Dutta (23 March 2017). "Narada sting: Kolkata Police files criminal case against TMC MP Kanwar Deep Singh". Mint. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  8. ^ "নারদে জড়িত নই, দাবি কেডি সিংহের". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  9. ^ "সিবিআইয়ের হাতিয়ার নারদের জোড়া ফুটেজ". Eisamay (in Bengali). 24 March 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  10. ^ "নারদের স্টিং অপারেশন, ঘুষ বিতর্কে জড়ালেন তৃণমূলের ১১ শীর্ষ নেতা". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  11. ^ "নারদ নারদ". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  12. ^ "Furore as sting video shows Trinamool leaders taking cash". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 15 March 2016. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  13. ^ Bagchi, Suvojit (14 March 2016). "Furore as sting video shows Trinamool leaders taking cash". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  14. ^ a b "অসম্মান করতেই নারদ, সারদা". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  15. ^ "Sting claims TMC leaders took cash, party 'dismissive'". ABP live. 15 March 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2017.
  16. ^ "Mamata terms Narada sting political vendetta". The Hindu. Special Correspondent. 23 March 2016. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  17. ^ "নারদের টাকা 'ভোটের চাঁদা', মন্তব্য মমতার". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  18. ^ "সিবিআইকে একহাত নিলেন মুখ্যমন্ত্রী". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  19. ^ "এতে দোষ প্রমাণ হয়না, সাফ কথা মমতার". Eisamay (in Bengali). 18 April 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  20. ^ "Dinesh tribedi thinks leaders in narada video must resign - Anandabazar". www.anandabazar.com. Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  21. ^
  22. ^ Dutta, Indrani (27 March 2016). "Nano, Amby and the bumps on West Bengal's path". The Hindu. ISSN 0971-751X. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  23. ^ Dutt, Ishita Ayan (24 March 2017). "Narada sting operation: Will it dent Mamata Banerjee's popularity?". Business Standard India. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  24. ^ Deepalakshmi, K (28 April 2017). "Narada videos: A year after the sting, Trinamool feels the pain". The Hindu. Retrieved 30 May 2017.
  25. ^ "Mamata Banerjee orders police to probe Narada sting operation". The Times of India. 17 June 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  26. ^ "রাজ্যেরও নারদ-তদন্ত, দায়িত্বে রাজীব". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  27. ^ বন্দ্যোপাধ্যায়, অঞ্জন. "চোপ, তদন্ত চলছে". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  28. ^ "Narada News sting operation: 3 PIL filed in Calcutta High Court, ED to begin probe". Indiablooms.com. Retrieved 12 May 2017.
  29. ^ "সিবিআই চেয়ে জনস্বার্থ মামলা, প্রতিবাদ পথেও". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). 17 March 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  30. ^ "পুলিশের কুশলী চালে বিড়ম্বনায় মনোজ-ম্যাথু". Eisamay (in Bengali). 23 March 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  31. ^ "পুলিশি হেনস্থার নালিশ ম্যাথুর". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  32. ^ "এ বার ফোন-সহ তলব ম্যাথুকে". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  33. ^ a b "State counters Narada: There was no demand for bribe". The Times of India. 19 August 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  34. ^ "পুলিশকে পুতুল বলে তিরস্কার". Eisamay (in Bengali). 18 March 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  35. ^ "HC stays Kolkata Police probe into Narada sting". The Times of India. 5 August 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  36. ^ "State took action against SMH Meerza". The Times of India. 18 March 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  37. ^ Bartaman. 18 March 2017. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  38. ^ "CBI to probe Narada sting case: Calcutta high court". The Times of India. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  39. ^ "Central lab report: Most of Narada tapes untampered". The Times of India. 10 August 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  40. ^ "স্যামুয়েল নয়, নারদ কাণ্ডে ভিডিও ফুটেজকেই গুরুত্ব হাই কোর্টের".
  41. ^ "সিবিআই তদন্ত বহাল, সুপ্রিম কোর্টে ধাক্কা রাজ্যের". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  42. ^ "নারদের এফআইআরে এক ডজন নেতা-মন্ত্রী". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). 18 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  43. ^ "Narada sting operation: CBI files FIR against 12 Trinamool leaders for 'criminal conspiracy'". The Times of India. 17 April 2017. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^ a b "Narada sting: Trinamool MP 'admits taking Rs 3 lakh bribe' - Times of India". The Times of India. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  47. ^ "নারদ কাণ্ডে সাংসদ কাকলি ঘোষদস্তিদারের বাড়িতে সিবিআই". Sangbad Pratidin. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  48. ^ Majumdar, Arkamoy Dutta (19 June 2017). "Narada sting: TMC's Iqbal Ahmed admits to receiving money from Mathew Samuel". Mint. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  49. ^ "নারদ কাণ্ডে সুব্রত মুখোপাধ্যায়কে জিজ্ঞাসাবাদ সিবিআইয়ের". Sangbad Pratidin. Retrieved 27 July 2018.
  50. ^ "চেনেনই না ম্যাথুকে, জেরা শেষে দাবি সাংসদ সৌগতর". Eisamay (in Bengali). 7 September 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  51. ^ "কোন অনাথ আশ্রমে মির্জার টাকা". Eisamay (in Bengali). 25 June 2017. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  52. ^ a b মণ্ডল, সিজার. "ম্যাথুর দেওয়া ফুটেজ নিয়েই প্রশ্ন, নারদ তদন্ত বিশ বাঁও জলে!". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  53. ^ "ম্যাথিউ-এর ফোনের পাসওয়ার্ড সিবিআইকে দিল না অ্যাপল". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  54. ^ "এ বার মার্কিন হ্যাকারদের শরণাপন্ন সিবিআই". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  55. ^ "ম্যাথুর ফোনের জট কাটাতে আমেরিকায় পা ফেলছে সিবিআই". Eisamay (in Bengali). 7 March 2018. Retrieved 30 July 2018.
  56. ^ "নারদ কাণ্ডে এ বার ১২ তৃণমূল নেতার বিরুদ্ধে মামলা ইডি-র". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  57. ^
  58. ^ "অপরূপার কাছে ইডি, সিবিআই মদনের ঘরে". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  59. ^ "সিবিআই জেরায় মুকুল, শুভেন্দুর হাজিরা ইডি-তে". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). Retrieved 28 July 2018.
  60. ^ "Narada referred to LS ethics committee". The Telegraph. 17 March 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  61. ^ "আগে সংসদ, পরে নীতি কমিটি: আডবাণী". Anandabazar Patrika (in Bengali). 12 November 2016. Retrieved 24 April 2017.

External links[edit]