While observing the tendency of political leaders successfully avoiding interrogation by taking shelter in the state-run hospital, Calcutta High Court has asked the Enforcement Directorate to take West Bengal Minister Partha Chatterjee to AIIMS Bhubaneshwar for medical examination.

The Court passed the order in a special hearing on Sunday.

The Bench of Justice Bibek Chaudhuri noted "…considering the fact that the accused is the senior most Cabinet Minister in the State of West Bengal having immense power and position, it would not be impossible for the accused with the aide of other political executives to take shelter under the garb of serious illness and medical treatment to evade interrogation."

The West Bengal Minister was arrested on 23rd July 2022 for alleged involvement in gross corruption of financial irregularities by offering jobs of primary teachers to various persons in lieu of money.

His bail plea was rejected on the ground that a case under the PML Act is triable by the Special Court and the Magistrate had no jurisdiction to entertain the application for bail of the accused.

Subsequent to this the Magistrate passed two orders whereby the advocate for the accused person was allowed to accompany the accused during the investigation. Further, the Magistrate also directed to take the accused person to S.S.K.M. Superspeciality Hospital at once for his check up and treatment, if necessary.

The ED challenged these orders before the High Court.

Suvyaprakash V. Raju, Additional Solicitor General, appearing for ED contended that Section 41D of the Code of Criminal Procedure entitles an arrested person to meet an Advocate of his choice during interrogation after his arrest, though not throughout interrogation.

He also argued that the said hospital is run by the State Government which is consistently used as a safe shelter for the accused persons having strong political connections as well as the leaders of the ruling political party.

On the other hand Debashish Roy, Advocate for the accused did not raise any legal issue challenging the scope of Section 41D of the Code of Criminal Procedure, but he supported the impugned order passed by the Magistrate regarding medical treatment of the accused in S.S.K.M. Super speciality Hospital.

The Court while setting aside the order allowing the advocate to be present with the accused during interrogation observed thus- "In the petition filed on behalf of the accused before the learned Magistrate, an order allowing the learned Advocate for the opposite party to remain present during investigation was prayed for stating, inter alia, that during raid, the E.D. did not allow the Advocate of the opposite party to be present which allegedly violated constitutional safeguard of the accused. However, on perusal of the case diary, I find that the learned Advocate was present during raid conducted by the E.D. in the house of the accused and he talked to the accused. Therefore, the allegation against the E.D. that the Advocate of the accused was not allowed to be present at the time of raid is palpably a false statement."

On the second order impugned the Court noted that "In recent past, more than one high ranking political leaders belonging to the ruling political party were arrested or directed to appear before the Investigating Authority for interrogation and they successfully avoided interrogation by the Investigating Agency taking shelter in the said hospital. When they found that there was no possibility for the Investigating Agency to interrogate the suspects having strong political background under the umbrella of ruling political party, they were discharged from S.S.K.M. Super speciality Hospital."

The Court while issuing a slew of directions directed ED to take the accused by air ambulance to AIIMS, Bhubaneswar in the early morning on 25th July, 2022. The Court directed AIIMS, Bhubaneswar Authority to medically examine the accused by a team of specialist doctors.

"The AIIMS, Bhubeneswar will prepare a report and handover the copies of the same to the Investigating Officer, Medical Officer of S.S.K.M. Super speciality Hospital and the learned Advocate for the accused by 3:00 p.m. on 25th July, 2022.

The Investigating Officer shall forward soft copy of the above-mentioned medical report to his counterpart in Calcutta who, in turn, shall produce it before the learned Special Judge under PML Act." the Court directed further.

Case Title- Enforcement Directorate v. Partha Chatterjee

Click here to read/download the Order