Kolkata | Jagran News Desk: The Calcutta High Court on Friday granted interim bail to four Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders -- Firhad Hakim, Subrata Mukherjee, Madan Mitra and Sovan Chatterjee -- who were arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) earlier this month in connection with the Narada sting operation.

The five-judge bench of the Calcutta High Court, however, asked the four TMC leaders to submit personal bond of Rs 2 lakh each with two sureties. It said that the four leaders won't be allowed to give interviews to press regarding the Narada case.

"Our tentative opinion is that we will grant interim bail and then hear the matter. Because hearing of this case will take a week or so," the court said, as reported by Bar and Bench.

However, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, opposed the bail and claimed that the four leaders might impact the probe. The court, however, opposed the CBI's plea and said that the probe started in 2017 but the four accused were arrested only in May this year.

"They were not arrested then and probe was completed without arresting them. Why do you think they need to be arrested now and prevented from discharging their public duties?," the court said, as reported by Bar and Bench.

The four leaders were arrested on the morning of May 17 by the CBI, which is investigating the Narada sting tape case on a 2017 order of the Calcutta High Court.

A special CBI court had granted interim bail to the four accused on May 17, but a division bench of the high court -- comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajesh Bindal and Justice Arijit Banerjee -- stayed the decision later that day, following which the leaders were sent to judicial custody.

Differing on the application by the four accused for recall of the stay order, Justice Arijit Banerjee on May 21 favoured granting of bail to the four, while Acting Chief Justice Bindal wanted that they be sent on house arrest.

The division bench then passed an order sending the four accused to house arrest, modifying its earlier order that stayed their bail. In view of the difference of opinion, the bench decided to refer the matter to a five-judge bench, which took up hearing of the matter on May 24.

The Narada sting operation was conducted by journalist Mathew Samuel of Narada News, a web portal, in 2014 wherein some people resembling TMC ministers, MPs and MLAs were seen receiving money from representatives of a fictitious company in lieu of favours.

At that time, the four arrested politicians were ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government. The sting operation was made public ahead of the 2016 assembly elections in West Bengal.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma