The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the West Bengal government for allegedly harassing customs officials who checked bags belonging to the wife of a Trinamool Congress MP at the Kolkata airport last month, PTI reported.
Rujira Narula, the wife of Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, was held at the Kolkata airport for carrying excess gold from Bangkok without a declaration on March 16. Abhishek Banerjee is the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Sanjiv Khanna said the incident was very serious. “Someone has drawn our attention to something,” the judges said. “It is very very serious. We do not know whose claims are bona fide.”
The court issued the notice based on a petition by the Customs Department, according to IANS. The judges also said they “want to know what is happening in West Bengal”. The court did not consider senior advocate and West Bengal counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s submission that the court did not need to issue a notice on the petition.
On March 29, the Centre had told the Supreme Court that the West Bengal Police had attempted to intimidate customs officials who checked bags belonging to the “wife of a sitting MP” at the Kolkata airport on March 16. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta had told the court that a large contingent of West Bengal Police arrived at the Kolkata airport after customs officials stopped Narula and Menaka Gambhir, both Thai passport holders, to check their luggage.
Mehta had said customs officials were threatened with a first information report if they did not let the women leave. Later, an FIR was registered against customs officials based on Narula’s complaint, said Mehta. He also alleged that a complaint lodged by customs officials against police officers who “abused and resorted to criminal intimidation and voluntarily obstructing customs officials from performing their duties” was not being taken seriously by the police. “There is a constitutional anarchy in West Bengal if I may say it succinctly,” Mehta had said.
Banerjee has refuted reports that his wife was caught at the Kolkata airport carrying gold in her check-in baggage. The MP claimed the complaint against his wife, filed by the customs authorities alleging interference and obstruction, was “highly politically motivated”.