Question TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee, wife in Kolkata, SC tells ED
New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed the Delhi High Court order, which had dismissed the pleas filed by TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee seeking quashing of summons issued to them in a money-laundering probe, and said the Enforcement Directorate (ED) can examine them in its Kolkata office by giving 24-hour advance notice.
Observing that it would not tolerate any kind of interference or hooliganism, the Apex Court said the state shall provide adequate police protection to ED officials who would probe there.
The ED told the top court that according to them, the TMP MC is a potential accused and they want to interrogate him. A bench headed by Justice U U Lalit issued notice to the ED on the plea filed by Abhishek and his wife against the high court order.
While issuing notice in the plea and staying the operation of the impugned order in the interim, a Bench comprising Justices U U Lalit, S Ravindra Bhat and Sudhanshu Dhulia imposed certain conditions. Firstly, it shall be open to the Directorate to require attendance of the petitioner in its office situated at Kolkata by giving at least 24 hours notice; and secondly, simultaneously, notice shall be issued to Commission of Police and Chief Secretary, West Bengal, so that adequate police protection is afforded to the persons seeking to interrogate the petitioners are concerned. The third says: "We have been assured by Counsel appearing for WB that complete assistance will be rendered by state machinery so that effective interrogation or examination be undertaken by the department. He further assured that the apprehension expressed by the ASG that there might be interference of obstruction is completely misplaced and every care shall be taken by the State machinery. On the assurance given by the Ld. Counsel for the State that the entire state apparatus will see to that the examination will go without any interference, we have passed the aforesaid interim direction. In case of any obstruction or interference, the Directorate shall be at liberty to approach the vacation bench of this court for appropriate directions."
"We are putting the matter in perspective, when you summon for interrogation you have nothing against that person or putting the man in the slot as an accused. It is a general interrogation – it can be as a witness and after interrogation can provide such information that he becomes an accused. As an accused you can procure custody, but when the man is not in the capacity of an accused can you insist on calling them to your office," Justice Lalit remarked.
"If there be any infraction, if there be any kind of interference or any kind of hooliganism, we will not tolerate," the bench orally told the state's counsel.
The bench noted in its order that "the state's counsel has also assured us that in case any complaint is or is likely to be filed against the officials involved in the task of interrogation or examining, no coercive action of any kind shall be initiated by the police or any state machinery against such official without taking leave of the court."
The ASG said the officers have been hounded.
Earlier also, as far as CBI officers are concerned, when some action was to be taken, the highest political figure of the state went there, sat in the CBI office. When the matter was being argued in the court, the Law minister was there, he said. He said the offence has taken place within the territorial limit of Delhi and the complaint is also here.
"According to us, he is a potential accused and it's a case of illegal mining worth thousands of crores. Rs 168 crore have been siphoned off and brought to Delhi... We have evidence against him. His name has surfaced," he said.
"It's not that we are just picking him up because of some other reason. His name has surfaced, we have evidence against him. Therefore, we want to interrogate him. It is not that we are just asking somebody to come because he is related to somebody. That's not the case. We have a good case to interrogate him," Raju argued.
On May 17 last year, a high voltage political drama was witnessed in Kolkata as TMC supporters held demonstrations at various places, while Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had offered to court arrest protesting detention of two West Bengal ministers in the Narada case by the CBI.