Kolkata: The Calcutta High Court on Monday directed that Rujira Naroola, the wife of Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, will not need to appear before the Customs authorities on its summons till July 31.
A division bench of the high court ordered the Joint Commissioner, Customs to extend the date of summons till after July 31 so that the court’s single bench can decide Naroola’s petition challenging the summons.
Last week, Naroola was asked by the court to present herself before the Customs authority on April 8 as per its summons, but it had also restrained the Central government department from taking any coercive action against her.
The division bench order observed there was no allegation that gold had been illegally imported in the Customs Authority’s complaint filed by a week after the incident at the airport.
Representing the Customs, Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi submitted that Naroola had declined to allow the Customs to check her baggage, but relented after much persuasion.
Naroola had an argument with the Customs authorities on the intervening night of March 15-16 at the NSCBI Airport on her return from Thailand. Naroola, a Thai citizen, as also another woman, were “randomly selected considering their movements and profile” for checking after they landed from Bangkok.
On March 16, she lodged a complaint with the NSCBI police station alleging she was “harassed and heckled” by the Customs authorities. The complaint was later converted into an FIR as per a directive by the court of Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate of Barrackpore following a preliminary inquiry.
The Customs officials lodged a complaint at the NSCBI Airport police station alleging they were “voluntarily and intentionally obstructed by the two women and local police” from discharging their functions under the Customs Act.
Naroola then filed a petition in the high court, arguing that the summons notice slapped on her by the Customs was illegal.
The Customs has been ordered to file an affidavit on her claims within three weeks. Naroola can reply within one week thereafter.
Describing as “baseless” allegations that his wife was caught at the airport for carrying gold in her checked-in baggage, Abhishek Banerjee, who is the nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, had told the media on March 24 that a complaint filed by the Customs alleging interference and obstruction by the local police was drafted in Delhi and “highly politically motivated”.
Challenging the Customs authorities to prove that his wife was carrying even two grams of gold after landing from Bangkok, Banerjee had declared he would leave politics if there was any wrongdoing on her part.