The Division Bench of Justice IP Mukerji and Justice Md Nizamuddin of Calcutta High Court on Monday directed that Trinamul Congress (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira Naroola will not have to appear before the Customs authorities on its summons till 31 July. The joint commissioner of Customs was directed to extend the date of summons to a date after 31 July to enable the Single Bench to decide Naroola’s petition challenging the summons.
Naroola was asked to appear before an assistant commissioner today at 12.00 noon in connection with her alleged intentional obstruction of Customs officers from checking her baggage at the Kolkata airport on her arrival from Bangkok on 16 March in a Thai Airways flight.
Directing Naroola to appear before the Customs assistant commissioner in compliance with its summons issued on 26 March, the Single Bench had further asked the Union government authority to not take any coercive action against her. Naroola challenged the order, through her counsel Ahin Chowdhury, before the Division Bench during the day contending that the summons was illegal and prayed for a stay on it.
In its order, the court stated that there was no allegation made of any illegal importation of gold in the complaint filed by Customs seven days after the incident took place at the airport.
Two parallel investigations into the incident by police and Customs cannot be permissible, appearing for the petitioner, Ahin Chowdhury submitted. Moreover, the summons has been issued on someone else’s instruction, it was submitted.
The summons has no mention of any illegal importation, it was submitted. Had there been any such offence, it ought to have been mentioned in the summons, it was further submitted. Naroola had refused to get her baggage examined on arrival from Bangkok, appearing for the Customs authority, Additional Solicitor General, Aman Lekhi submitted.
Submitting that the baggage was allowed to be examined after persuasion, Lekhi said x-ray of the bags at the airport showed the presence of gold.
At that time, local police was called in by Naroola, who entered a restricted area and escorted her away from the airport. Investigation under the Customs Act can be done even if a police investigation is on, claiming that the two probes are distinct, it was submitted.
Submitting that there is no politics behind the summons issued to Naroola and that the Customs wants to do a proper inquiry only, Lekhi wondered why is she apprehensive about it. Naroola, on her arrival at the airport, was apparently 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 had been deliberately harassed and misbehaved by the officials.
The Customs authorities also filed a complaint before the NSCBI Airport P.S on 22 March stating that they were prevented from examination of the baggage of Naroola and her companion Menka Gambhir, who Naroola said, was her sister.