The Delhi High Court on Tuesday refused to pass an interim order restraining the Enforcement Directorate from taking any action related to an alleged money-laundering case against Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, PTI reported.

The High Court directed the Enforcement Directorate to respond to the petition filed by the Diamond Harbour MP and his wife Rujira Banerjee within three days. The petition seeks to quash the summons issued to both of them.

The case pertains to illegal mining and theft of coal from leasehold mines of Eastern Coalfields Limited in West Bengal’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas, and involves the alleged embezzlement of thousands of crores of rupees.

The agency had asked Abhishek Banerjee and his wife to appear before it in Delhi along with some documents. The petitioners contended that they are residents of Kolkata and should not be made to appear before the Enforcement Directorate in Delhi.

Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioners, said that the Enforcement Directorate interrogated the TMC MP on September 6 for over 10 hours, Live Law reported. He added that the agency again asked him to appear before it on September 8.

According to Sibal, the Enforcement Directorate asked the MP about the properties that he and his family owned, sources of income in the last five years and his income tax returns from 10 years ago.

“This is a complete fishing and roving inquiry, to find something and start investigating,” Sibal told the court.

Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta said the allegations against Abhishek Banerjee and his wife pertain to money laundering, which has national and international ramifications, the Hindustan Times reported. He also contended that the investigation was not restricted to any particular geographical area.

Justice Yogesh Khanna said that he would pass an order in the matter only after the agency and the petitioners file affidavits and counter-affidavits. The court has listed the matter for further hearing on September 27.

The money laundering allegations

In November 2020, the Central Bureau of Investigation had filed a case against the general managers of Eastern Coalfield Limited as well as a person named Anup Manjhi. Based on the CBI’s case, the Enforcement Directorate also began an investigation.

The Bharatiya Janata Party had alleged that the illegal payments had reached Abhishek Banerjee through TMC leader Vinay Mishra. The BJP also claimed that Abhishek Banerjee channelled these funds into the Trinamool Congress.

On August 28, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is also Abhishek Banerjee’s aunt, alleged that BJP leaders used central agencies to target her party when they couldn’t compete in politics.

“No use pointing fingers at the Trinamool for corruption in coal,” she had said. “It [coal] is under the Centre. What about its ministers? What about the BJP leaders who looted the coal belt of Bengal, the Asansol region?”