Withdrawal of “general consent” can’t stop CBI graft probe against central staffers: HC | India News – Times of India

Kolkata: Withdrawing “general consent” by states to CBI can’t deter the agency from probing corruption charges against central government officers, the Calcutta high court held on Wednesday.
Justice Tirthankar Ghosh, in his 30-page order, said “offenders under the Prevention of Corruption Act are to be dealt with equally”. The HC said central officers may be posted in different states and they cannot be “distinguished and/or discriminated” because their offices are in different states. The court further said they must be “hauled up for corruption in similar manner uniformly throughout the country”.
On Wednesday, the HC refused to “interfere” with the CBI probe in the illegal coal mining and cattle smuggling cases, in which Vinay Mishra — a former TMC youth leader — has been implicated, saying there was no “illegality committed” by the CBI probe.
The court turned down Bengal’s plea, saying the September 2020 FIR lodged by CBI — two years after the state withdrew consent for all CBI probes in Bengal — isn’t applicable in this case as the officers implicated in the FIR are all central officers. The CBI FIR in these cases were against BSF and customs officials.
The HC said withdrawal of consent may be applicable to “cases where exclusively the officers belonging to the state government are involved”.
The court also held that the central government’s area of operation can’t be curtailed by any central or state legislation. Mishra, now a citizen of Vanuatu, is likely to move the Supreme Court.
The judge said if the central government or CBI is probing “acts and omissions” of its own officers (in relation to illegal coal mining and cattle smuggling cases), it can’t be interfered with by the state even if the offences were committed within its territory.
Mishra’s counsels Abhishek Manu Singhvi and Ayan Bhattacharjee had argued that CBI did not have jurisdiction to investigate and initiate any case within Bengal after the latter withdrew consent. The state had earlier revoked general consent through a gazette notification of November 16, 2018.
Bengal AG Kishore Datta argued that CBI registered the FIR last November and that it was “in excess of its jurisdiction and authority”. It was argued that while the alleged illegal mining was taking place in areas outside “railway siding area”, the place of recovery for “coal theft” was at Pandabeswar railway siding.
YJ Dastoor and Phiroze Edulji, appearing for CBI, argued that if the state has withdrawn consent for investigation of cases, it cannot be withdrawn for railway areas where the alleged coal theft took place.

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