Suspended Gujarat MP Babubhai Katara — arrested on Wednesday for trying to fraudulently take a woman and a 15-year-old boy to Canada on the passports of his wife and son — was a serial offender, say the police. They say he had committed similar offences twice earlier and had charged a huge amount for the purpose. It is suspected the human-trafficking racket was spread over states as far apart as Gujarat, Punjab and Andhra Pradesh.
On Thursday, the court of the additional chief metropolitan magistrate remanded Katara in police custody for 11 days.
“His role in illegally carrying people out of the country cannot be ruled out,” said Neeraj Thakur, DCP (crime). “He travelled to the US and UK in 2005 and 2006 before this, and took along other persons using a similar modus operandi.”
The police have dispatched teams to Hyderabad, Gujarat and Punjab to look for travel agents involved in the crime. They said the role of other influential people, including immigration officials, could not be ruled out.
While arguing the case for Katara's custody, the police told the court that the arrival visas had been forged on the passports of his wife and his son. The police said prima facie it seemed that after leaving two persons abroad, the MP would return to India on his genuine passport, and the other two passports would be sent back through different channels.
Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Kamini Lau said: “Why were they not caught then? Are your officers involved as well?”
In their reply, the police said the MP’s diplomatic passport got him immunity at the airport. “He would just go and sit in the VIP lounge while his personal secretary, Rajinder Singh, would do the needful,” the investigating officer told the judge. The police said in this case Katara had allegedly struck a deal for Rs 27 lakh.
Katara’s counsel, Ajay Chopra, however, said Rajinder Singh was the main accused. He said Katara knew nothing about the alleged offence, and would do only what Rajinder Singh would tell him.
The court dismissed the counsel's plea for special facilities in custody for Katara on grounds of his being an MP.
The court remanded Paramjeet Kaur, who was arrested for trying to travel on Katara's wife's passport, to four days in police custody. She told the court that the 15-year-old boy, who was also arrested on Wednesday, was not her son. The teenager was produced in a juvenile court, which remanded him to 14 days in judicial custody.