TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee's wife Rujira appears before Delhi court virtually in coal scam case

Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and his wife have challenged the September 10 summons.

TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife Rujira Banerjee on Thursday appeared before a Delhi court through video conferencing in relation to a complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate for allegedly refusing to join the probe in a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal.

Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Pankaj Sharma directed Ms. Rujira to appear before the court physically on October 12, while granting her exemption from the personal appearance for the day.

In her plea seeking exemption from personal appearance, Ms. Rujira told the court that she was unable to travel with her child on short notice.

The court had directed Ms. Rujira to appear before it on September 30.

Her plea was opposed by ED’s Special Public Prosecutor Nitesh Rana, who told the court that she had to appear before the court physically and seek bail since she was accused of evading summons.

The judge granted the exemption for the day after noting that Ms. Rujira appeared through the video conferencing and her advocate Siddharth Aggarwal, who appeared physically, assured that she will appear before the court in person on the next day of the hearing.

In its complaint, the ED alleged that she refused to appear before the agency here despite repeated summons issued to her.

The couple had earlier approached the Delhi High Court seeking quashing of summons issued to them by the ED for questioning in a money laundering case linked to an alleged coal scam in West Bengal, saying they are residents of Kolkata and should not be compelled to join the probe in the national capital.

The plea is currently pending before the high court, which is scheduled to further hear it on Friday.

Abhishek Banerjee, nephew of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, and his wife have challenged the September 10 summons and also sought to direct the ED not to summon them for their appearance in Delhi and thereby not compelling them to join the investigation in the instant case here.

The 33-year-old MP represents the Diamond Harbour seat in Lok Sabha and is the national general secretary of the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

The plea before the high court also said that a greater degree of protection is granted to a woman under Section 160 of the CrPC, which mandates that she shall not be required to attend any place other than where she resides.

It claimed the repeated issuance of summons to Rujira Banerjee to appear before the ED was ex-facie illegal and mala fide and sought court’s intervention before any coercive measures are resorted to by the agency.

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.

Abhishek Banerjee said ED has repeatedly summoned him and his wife for examination in person in Delhi without supplying a copy of the ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) and without specifying whether they are being summoned as witnesses or accused, nor indicating the scope of the investigation being carried out.

He said their examination may take place in Kolkata where ED has a functional and fully equipped zonal office.

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