While citing an incident of the West Bengal Police “intimidating” airport customs officials who were trying to check the luggage of ‘wife of an MP’, the Centre alleged “constitutional anarchy” and a “complete breakdown of law and order” in West Bengal.
The Supreme court was hearing the case on the Saradha Chit Fund on Friday when Solicitor General Tushar Mehta who represented the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), without taking any names, said that the West Bengal police had allegedly abused and intimidated customs officials on March 16 at Kolkata airport for insisting on checking the baggage.
Mehta told a bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna that the West Bengal police arrived at the Kolkata Airport on March 16 in large numbers when customs officials allegedly stopped Rujira Naroola and Menaka Gambhir, both Thai passport holders, to frisk their luggage.
Mehta furthered that the customs officials, who were just doing their job, were threatened with an FIR if they did not let the lady leave. Mehta confirmed that an FIR was ultimately registered against the customs official based on Naroola’s complaint.
He also alleged that the complaint lodged by the Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Air Intelligence Unit of the airport against the West Bengal police who “abused and resorted to criminal intimidation and voluntarily obstructing customs officials from performing their duties” was not being given any importance by the police.
Kolkata’s Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose Airport was abuzz with hearsay on Saturday, March 16 that Rujira (Naroola) Banerjee, the wife of the second-in-command of TMC and Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee was reportedly caught with 2 kgs of gold.
As per the report, the lady flew in on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok at around 1.10 am and were passing through normal screening. They had declined to show their passports and were carrying seven pieces of checked-in baggage, the complaint said.
Despite multiple requests, they refused to put the baggage through the X-Ray scanning machine and eventually did so “after a lot of reluctance”, it added.
The complaint said that on scanning, it was noticed that three of these pieces of baggage contained jewellery and the women were requested to open it, but they “started abusing the officers and threatened them with dire consequences”.
When customs officials questioned her about the gold, which was approximately valued at Rs 68 lakh, she reportedly called up her husband Abhishek Banerjee, who is Lok Sabha MP from Diamond Harbour. Soon, several senior Kolkata Police officers reached the airport and tried to allegedly whisk her away.
The Customs officials had confirmed that they were under pressure to release the duo.
As per the reports, the ladies finally left around 2.15 am through the Green Channel, after which another team of local policemen allegedly came enquiring for the officers who checked their baggage. “The contingent of police officers kept on increasing until the morning,” the Customs department said, adding that they had come to arrest the officers involved in intercepting the women.
Next day in a meeting held between customs officers and the West Bengal police. Reportedly, the police without divulging the name of the complainant but hinting that it was related to an incident that occurred on March 16, told the customs officers that they were in receipt of a complaint by a woman “alleging misbehaviour, harassment, undue detention and extortion of money for clearance of her luggage”, the complaint said.
The police wanted preparation of a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) whereby VIPs are not checked and warned that if such incidents happened in the future, “that would be viewed seriously and severe action will be taken against the concerned customs officials which may include arrest/detention of the officer concerned”, the complaint said, adding that the Customs officials refused to yield.
Meanwhile, the bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked Mehta to file an application in this regard.