Court refuses CBI probe into Saradha scam

Kolkata, June 19 (IANS) The Calcutta High Court Wednesday refused to order a CBI probe into the multi-crore Saradha Group chit fund scam but kept the matter pending and directed the state investigating agency to submit monthly reports of the probe's progress to the court.

A division bench of Justice A.K. Banerjee and M.K. Chaudhuri did not reject the public interest litigation demanding a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the scam, but kept it pending.

"If we withdraw the process from the state machinery and ask the CBI to take it over, the result would not be as expected. At least, stage has not come, as we find from the fact of the situation," the court said.

Granting liberty to the West Bengal administration investigating the scam to take suggestions or advice from any central agency, the court directed the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, the ministry of corporate affairs and Special Fraud Investigating Office (SFIO) to provide all necessary assistance to the state government.

The court, in its 76-page order, observed that "the situation is disastrous, and the magnitude of problems emerging out of the scam is huge and unless steps are taken it would be an economic disaster".

With a plethora of cases pertaining to the scam emerging across the state, the court asked the state government to consolidate them and set up a special court to try all the cases.

The court also hoped the powers of the Commission of Inquiry set up by the Mamata Banerjee government to settle the claim of the Saradha investors, be increased so that it could justly settle the claims.

"We would hope and trust, that the state government would rise to the occasion and seriously consider the recommendations made by us herein, enhancing the powers of the Commission" the court said.

After the court's refusal to order a CBI probe into the scam, advocate Lakshmi Gupta, who has been appointed as an amicus curiae, pleaded that the matter be not disposed of and be kept pending, which the court accepted.

"Considering the grave nature of the offence, in the interest of justice, the matter be not disposed of so that if anyone was aggrieved at any stage, he may have the opportunity to approach the court," pleaded Gupta.

Asserting that the "biggest" financial scam to hit Bengal was not only confined to the state but has affected millions of investors across the country, the PIL had sought a CBI probe into the matter.

Saradha boss Sudipta Sen and two of his close aides - company director Debjani Mukherjee and senior employee Arvind Chauhan - were arrested from Sonmarg in Kashmir April 23, days after the group collapsed, unable to repay lakhs of mostly poor depositors from rural areas. A number of other company officials were nabbed since then.

Following the Group's collapse, the state has witnessed a spate of suicides by agents, operators and investors of the Saradha and other such companies.

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