West Bengal coal scam case: Supreme Court allows ED to question Abhishek Banerjee in Kolkata

TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee. File

TMC leader Abhishek Banerjee. File | Photo Credit: PTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday stayed a Delhi High Court decision allowing the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to question Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee in Delhi, but permitted the probe agency to quiz him in Kolkata after serving 24 hours’ prior notice in a money-laundering case linked to a West Bengal coal scam.

“Pending consideration, interim stay of the effect and operation of the judgment presently under challenge. It shall be open to the ED to require the attendance of the petitioners in office by giving at least 24 hours’ notice,” the court observed.

Pronouncing the interim order, a three-judge Bench led by Justice U.U. Lalit warned the West Bengal government that any kind of “hooliganism or infraction” against the Enforcement Directorate (ED) team would not be tolerated.

The court gave the ED liberty to approach the Vacation Bench of the Supreme Court in case of any such infraction.

The 24-hour notice would be given by the ED to both the Kolkata Commissioner of Police and the West Bengal Chief Secretary so that adequate protection would be given to the probe team in Kolkata.

The court recorded the statement made by the West Bengal government that “complete assistance” would be given to the ED team for conducting an “effective examination/interrogation”. The State said apprehensions of obstruction to the work of the ED team were “completely misplaced”.

The court made it clear that the responsibility of the ED team completing its mission without any obstruction or hitch was squarely on the shoulders of the State government and its police machinery

The Bench said 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 court tagged the question of law on whether women could be granted protection from travelling to another State to be questioned in a case along with a pending matter involving Nalini Chidambaram. The court listed the hearing on the issue on July 19, 2022.

Mr. Banerjee, who is also the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had moved the Supreme Court against the Delhi High Court order which upheld the ED summons to the MP and his wife, Rujira Banerjee, to come to Delhi for questioning in the case. They had asked why the agency wanted them to come to Delhi when they were ordinarily residents of Kolkata.

The ED, in the Supreme Court, had reasoned that there had been past instances of violence against Central Bureau of Investigation officers, who were gheraoed in Kolkata. They said the Banerjees were powerful politicians.

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Printable version | May 17, 2022 2:26:37 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/kolkata/sc-allows-ed-to-question-abhishek-banerjee-in-west-bengal-coal-scam-case/article65421936.ece