New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Monday granted temporary exemption to Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira Banerjee from appearing in a trial court in a money laundering case related to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal.
The trial court in Delhi had directed him to appear in person on October 12. The high court said it will hear on October 29, the petition filed by Rujira Banerjee challenging the ED’s complaint in the matter, taking cognizance of the trial court’s order of that complaint and thereafter issuing summons for physical appearance. .
Justice Yogesh Khanna had exempted Rujira Banerjee from personal appeal. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Enforcement Directorate, urged the court to consider his plea for hearing after the Dussehra holiday.
“Till then, the woman client (Rujira) cannot appear in person,” the solicitor general said. Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Rujira Banerjee, prayed that her client be allowed to appear in the trial court through her counsel.
The judge ordered, “List on October 29. In the meantime, the petitioner will appear in the trial court through counsel.”
On September 30, when she appeared virtually in connection with the complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma directed her appearance on October 12, exempting her from personal appearance for the day.
Rujira Banerjee has argued that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) complaint against her is arbitrary, false, troubling and an abuse of the process of law.
The petition states that the complaint has been filed to harass and create prejudice to him and his family.
“Only a perusal of the impugned complaint confirms that the respondent agency (ED) falsely claimed that the petitioner had not complied with his illegal summons (issued by the ED). Due to the fact that he was carrying two young children is the mother of and is 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 respect of the above 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 summons on the complaint mechanically and without brain.
“LD CMM failed to appreciate that not only were the notices in question illegal and over jurisdiction, but also the manner of service, i.e. email to a third party, in the first instance is contrary to the summons dated 18.08.2021 cannot be held against the law and the petitioner,” it said.
The couple has already approached the High Court to quash the 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 summons of the ED.
The 33-year-old MP, who is the nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, represents the Diamond Harbor seat in the Lok Sabha and is the national general secretary of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).
The ED registered the case under provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on the basis of a November 2020 FIR lodged by the CBI, alleging coal theft of crores of rupees related to mines of Eastern Coalfields Limited in Kunustoria and Kajora areas of the state. and around Asansol.
Local coal operator Anoop Manjhi alias Lala is said to be the prime suspect in this case. The ED had earlier claimed that Abhishek Banerjee was the beneficiary of the money received from this illegal business. He has denied all the allegations.