Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj of the Calcutta High Court has directed Rujira Naroola, wife of Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, to appear before the Customs authorities on 8 April in compliance with its summons. The court, however, directed that the Customs authorities would not take any coercive step against her. Ms Naroola, who recently had a face-off with some Customs officials at the NSCBI Airport on her arrival from Bangkok, had moved court claiming that the summons by the Customs were illegal.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate SN Mookerjee submitted that the Customs authorities had no right to issue such summons as the department had not yet framed any charge to summon her.
As such, the notice is bad in law, Mr Mookerjee contended. Ms Naroola had arrived at the Kolkata airport in the early hours of 16 March from Bangkok and was allegedly selected randomly for checking by the Customs officials at the immigration counter.
She filed a complaint with the NSCBI Airport police station on the same day alleging that she was deliberately harassed and some of the officials misbehaved with her. The Customs authorities also filed a complaint before the NSCBI Airport police station stating that they were prevented from examination of baggage of Ms Naroola and her companion Menka Gambhir, who Ms Rujira Naroola said was her sister.
The Customs authorities alleged that they were obstructed by the two passengers, local police personnel and other unknown persons from exercising their power as conferred under the Customs Act. The additional chief judicial magistrate of Barrackpore court had ordered the conversion of the complaint into an FIR and begin investigation into her claims, Mr Mookerjee submitted.
The Customs authorities have no right to issue summons to the complainant on the selfsame ground, it was further submitted. The police have already started proceedings in the issue, additional advocate general, Abhratosh Majumdar, appearing for the state, submitted. As such, the Customs authorities cannot initiate parallel proceedings on it, it was submitted.
The Union government authority is not considering Ms Rujira Naroola as an accused, standing counsel for the Centre Ravi Prakash, appearing for the Customs, submitted.
Contending that there are some discrepancies in information declared by Ms Naroola, Mr Prakash said these need to be verified and she has been asked to appear before the joint director of Customs for this purpose. The court directed her to appear before the Customs authorities on 8 April as per the summons, while restraining the latter from taking any coercive step against her till further orders.
The court directed the Customs to file an affidavit on Ms Naroola’s claims within three weeks, while her counsel will be at liberty to reply to it within one week after that. The matter will appear for hearing again in the month of May, the court directed.
Mr Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of party supremo Mamata Banerjee, had on 23 March denied reports in a section of media that two kg gold was seized from his wife’s baggage when she landed in the city from Bangkok.
Terming the allegations as baseless and politically motivated, Mr Banerjee said in a Press conference that his wife Rujira Banerjee (nee Naroola) was “not carrying even two grams of gold” or any other dutiable or objectionable item in their baggage.