Supreme Court allows ED to question Abhishek Banerjee, wife in Kolkata in coal scam case
It also stayed a Delhi High Court order permitting the central agency to interrogate the couple in the Capital.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday allowed the Enforcement Directorate to question Trinamool Congress National General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee in Kolkata in a money-laundering case linked to an alleged coal scam, The Hindu reported.
It also stayed the Delhi High Court order, which had permitted the central agency to interrogate the couple in the Capital.
Abhishek Banerjee and Rujira Banerjee are among the many accused in the case of alleged illegal mining and theft of coal from the mines of Eastern Coalfields Limited in West Bengal’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas. Both of them have denied the charges.
The Supreme Court directed the central agency to serve a notice 24 hours in advance before questioning the Banerjees in Kolkata.
On March 21, Abhishek Banerjee was questioned by the Enforcement Directorate for eight hours in Delhi. The central agency had summoned Rujira Banerjee a day later, but she did not appear before it.
The couple had approached the Delhi High Court challenging the summons.
However, the court dismissed their petition on March 11 and allowed the Enforcement Directorate to question them in Delhi. The Banerjees then moved the Supreme Court, asking why the central agency wanted them to come to Delhi for questioning when they are residents of Kolkata.
The Enforcement Directorate submitted that Abhishek Banerjee was “politically influential”, ANI reported. It said that in the past the Central Bureau of Investigation officials were gheraoed in Kolkata and so it was apprehensive about interrogating the leader in the city.
On Tuesday, a three-judge bench also warned the West Bengal government against obstructing the investigation in Kolkata.
It said that any kind of “hooliganism or infraction” against the Enforcement Directorate will not be tolerated, The Hindu reported.
The court also told the Enforcement Directorate that it can approach the Supreme Court’s vacation bench in case the investigation is obstructed in any manner.
It directed the central agency to send a notice 24 hours in advance to the Kolkata police commissioner and the West Bengal chief secretary so that adequate protection can be provided to the investigating team during Banerjees’ questioning.
“No coercive action should be taken by the police or the state machinery on the basis of any complaint filed against the ED team without first approaching the Supreme Court,” the bench observed, reported The Hindu.