NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Monday exempted for the time being the physical appearance of Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira Banerjee before a trial court in connection with a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal.
The trial court in Delhi had directed her to appear before it personally on October 12. The high court said it will hear on October 29, the plea filed by Rujira Banerjee challenging the Enforcement Directorate’s complaint filed in the case, the trial court order taking cognizance of that complaint and the subsequent issuance of a summons for physical appearance.
Justice Yogesh Khanna granted Rujira Banerjee’s exemption from personal appeaCoal scamrance for the time being after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Enforcement Directorate, urged the court to take up her plea for hearing after the Dussehra break.
“Till then, the lady client (Rujira) may not appear in person,” said the Solicitor General. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Rujira Banerjee, prayed that her client be allowed to appear through her lawyer before the trial court.
“List on October 29. Meanwhile, the petitioner will appear before the trial court through counsel,” the judge ordered.
On September 30, after she appeared virtually in relation to the complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma directed her physical presence on October 12, while granting her exemption from the personal appearance for the day.
Rujira Banerjee has contended that the Enforcement Directorate (ED)’s complaint against her is arbitrary, false, vexatious and an abuse of the process of law.
The complaint has been filed to harass and cause prejudice to her and her family, the petition contended.
“A bare perusal of the impugned complaint confirms that the respondent agency (ED) falsely averred that petitioner had not complied with its illegal summonses (issued by ED). Owing to the fact that she is a mother of two young children and a resident of Kolkata, the petitioner has repeatedly requested that she be examined at her residence in Kolkata.
“The fact that the petitioner was in constant dialogue with the respondent in relation to the aforementioned summons clearly shows that there was no intention on the part of the petitioner to disobey the same,” the petition said.
It further argued that the trial court took cognizance and issued a summons on the complaint in a mechanical manner and without application of mind.
“The Ld. CMM failed to appreciate that not only were the notices in question illegal and in excess of jurisdiction, but furthermore the mode of service i.e., email to a third party, of summons dated 18.08.2021 at the first instance is contrary to law and cannot be held against the Petitioner,” it said.
The couple has already approached the high court for quashing of summons issued to them by the ED for questioning in the case.
On September 21, the court had refused to grant any interim relief in relation to the ED summons.
The 33-year-old MP, who is the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee, represents the Diamond Harbour seat in Lok Sabha and is the national general secretary of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
The ED lodged a case under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on the basis of a November 2020 FIR registered by the CBI that alleged a multi-crore coal pilferage scam related to Eastern Coalfields Ltd mines in the state’s Kunustoria and Kajora areas in and around Asansol.
Local coal operative Anup Majhi alias Lala is alleged to be the prime suspect in the case. The ED had earlier claimed that Abhishek Banerjee was a beneficiary of funds obtained from this illegal trade. He has denied all charges.