The Delhi High Court on Tuesday declined interim relief to Trinamool Congress General Secretary Abhishek Banerjee and his wife, who sought quashing of summonses, issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), in connection with a money laundering case linked to alleged coal scam in West Bengal.
Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and his wife Rujira Banerjee, have challenged the September 10 summonses.
Justice Yogesh Khanna said: “Let me be very clear. I am not granting any stay. I am issuing notice.” He added that the court will issue notice and then the parties can file their reply in the matter. The high court asked the ED to respond on Banerjee’s and his wife’s plea within three days and scheduled the matter for further hearing on September 27.
Abhishek Banerjee and his wife were asked by the ED to appear before it in Delhi on Tuesday. The couple has contended that they are residents of Kolkata and should not be compelled to join the probe here.
The ED submitted before the court that money laundering has national and trans-national ramifications and its investigation is not restricted to any police station or area.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, submitted if they have any apprehensions, they can take appropriate remedy.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the couple, contended since the high court is seized of the matter, the agency should not proceed against them.
“We have given the documents to the agency, but we are not appearing in person. I hope no coercive action will be taken,” he submitted. He added that they can do the questioning in West Bengal.
However, the court declined to grant any interim protection.
Citing that Banerjee had already appeared before the agency several times, Sibal vehemently argued that the ED was entitled to investigate but it should not harass his client.
“All this is in West Bengal. The woman has to be interrogated at her house. They are most welcome to interrogate us in the jurisdiction of West Bengal,” he argued.
Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju, also representing the ED, contended under the PMLA, there is no territorial jurisdiction for carrying out investigation and there are no territorial limits unlike under the CrPC. He added that Banerjee attends the Parliament regularly and the agency also has proof to show that the date when his wife replied that she is in Patna and cannot come to Delhi for questioning, she was in a beauty parlour in Delhi.
The ED lodged a case on basis of the CBI’s FIR lodged in November 2020 in the alleged multi-crore coal pilferage scam connected to Eastern Coalfields Ltd mines.