How and why Kumar has always been one step ahead of the CBI, legally.
NEW DELHI: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the Saradha chit fund scam, is finding it extremely difficult to corner IPS officer Rajeev Kumar as all of its arguments to arrest him are failing to make any impact on the courts because the agency is being unable to support its conjecture by way of proving strong evidences.
Last week, the Calcutta High Court granted Kumar anticipatory bail, again. It is pertinent to mention that the 53-year-old Kumar, an IPS officer of the 1989 batch, was given the President’s police medal in 2015 for “distinguished service”, months after the CBI was asked to take up the investigation of the Saradha scam on 9 May 2014.
He was one of the only two police officers who were selected from West Bengal from the total 76 officers across India, who were given this medal. He is married to a 1990 batch IRS officer, Sanchita Kumar, who is also posted in Kolkata. The fact that he was given a coveted award like the President’s police medal in 2015, bureaucracy observers say, shows the “goodwill” that Kumar enjoyed in the North Block till at least 2015.
One of the main arguments that the CBI had put in front of the courts, to arrest Kumar, was that he had “released” the mobile phones and laptop belonging to Debjani Mukherjee, one of the prime accused in the scam, who had joined the Saradha Group as a receptionist sometime in 2007 before rising to become the executive director of the company. The laptop and five mobiles were seized on 23 April 2013 when Debjani and Suditpo Sen, another prime accused, were arrested from Sonmarg, Jammu and Kashmir.
The CBI also feels on the basis of the statement of a policeman, whose statement the agency had recorded in September 2018—the said policeman was part of the Kumar-led SIT that was constituted to probe the scam—that Kumar has not been truthful to the agency. In his statement, this officer had claimed that he used to receive instructions from IPS officer and Kumar’s deputy, Arnab Ghosh, who in turn would receive instructions from Rajeev Kumar on how to “manipulate” the investigation in the case.
However, this argument of the agency, lawyers say, will only have an impact in the court of law, if the agency is able to submit some kind of evidence to support this statement of the said policeman, which they have failed to do so till now.
The CBI also believes that the main accused Sudipto Sen and Debjani used to maintain a “red-diary’ in which they recorded every payment that they made to the influential people in West Bengal, who were mostly those individuals who were close to the TMC leadership. As per Debjani, the said diary was seized by the West Bengal police when they had arrested her. The CBI, however, claims that it was never handed this very important diary by the West Bengal police when the case was transferred to it.
This diary may not hold any evidentiary value in the court of law, as successive court judgments on the evidentiary value of such diaries have shown, but the content of it, the CBI believes, can lead to emerging of new links and players in the scam.
Interestingly, the whereabouts of this diary was one of the main points on which Kumar was questioned in Shillong for almost 40 hours in February 2019. The CBI had termed Kumar’s attitude during this questioning as “arrogant, non-cooperative and ambiguous”.
However, these points of the CBI have failed to make an impact or a strong case for his custody in front of the court because Kumar, through his lawyers, has debunked every claim of the agency, thereby leaving the court with no option but not to allow the agency the custody of Kumar.
As per Kumar’s lawyers arguments, the laptop and mobile phones were released to Debjani only after they were examined by the Serious Fraud Investigation Unit, the Enforcement Directorate and other agencies which found nothing relevant and incriminating in them. His lawyers have told the court—something the CBI has failed to refute by way of evidence—that the mobile phones and laptop were handed over Sudipta Sen and Debjani as per the direction of a different court. His lawyers have also been able to convince the court that the data downloaded from the mobile phones and laptop concerned were not compromised and are available with the said agencies. Why the CBI has so far been able to refute the claims of Kumar that the mobile phones and laptop were released only after getting “no-objection” from these multiple agencies, remains a mystery—a point which the CBI has no response to.
CBI’s arguments of Kumar not cooperating in the questioning, which he had undergone in Shillong and hence should be allowed to be taken into custody, too has found little traction with the court as Kumar’s lawyers have, so far, been able to convince the court that he had “fully cooperated” by way of showing the court the video-recording of the nearly 40 hours questioning. The fact that not a single FIR has been filed in this six-year-old case against Kumar nor his name, till now, has come up in any of the charge-sheet filed by the police or the CBI, too, has led to questions that if Kumar was really involved or was having the possession of the so-called diary, then why did the agency, till date, has not named him as an accused.
This critical point, too, has led to the court not agreeing to the CBI’s request for Kumar’s custody. The situation today would have been different if an FIR was registered against him by the agency when it first started the probe five years ago, since, the agency from the start, was sure that he was also somehow “involved’ in derailing the investigation. Why the FIR was not filed against him can be best explained by the “goodwill” that Kumar enjoyed in the North Block till at least 2015.
Another loophole that Kumar and his legal time have found out that and have used successfully is that till now, no one from the Jammu and Kashmir police, which had arrested Sudipto and Debjani, have been questioned by the CBI for the alleged missing diary. If the CBI could had questioned the officials of J&K police and then it would have emerged that they had really found a red-diary from the duo, which they had then submitted to the West Bengal police, then it would have been easy to establish a chain of transfer and hence would have become easy to prove that the supposed red-diary was indeed given to Kumar by the Jammu and Kashmir police. Again, why officials from the Jammu and Kashmir police have not been questioned, even now, is a question that only the CBI can answer.
The fact that the CBI has so far not been able to establish a single instance of money trail or find any new evidence in the case, despite investigating the case for more than five years now, has also diluted CBI’s stand in front of the court. It is very pertinent to mention that the CBI was reminded of Kumar in 2017 when it first issued the summons to him, nearly three-and-a-half years after taking over the case. Why this delay in “identifying” Kumar is something that the CBI has not been able to explain to the courts.
An agency official quipped; “He has served in the force for 30 years now and he knows how things work, right up to the level of courts. That’s why he has made sure that he leaves no ground for the court to question his ‘conduct’ as the CBI has been alleging. He has been so ‘smart’ in his conduct that even the CBI had to admit that it has received eight trunks of documents from the West Bengal police earlier this year. The fact that the CBI decided to ‘look’ at him after so many years is also something that is not working in favour of the agency.”