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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

‘Constitutional anarchy in Bengal’: Centre to SC on row over TMC lawmaker kin

The Centre told the bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi that customs officials had stopped the lawmaker’s wife to check two of her seven bags on suspicion that she was illegally carrying a large amount of cash and gold.

india Updated: Mar 29, 2019 23:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew.
Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee is Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew.(Samir Jana / HT Photo)

There is constitutional anarchy and complete lawlessness in the state of West Bengal, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta claimed in the Supreme Court on Friday, informing the court of a row between customs department officials and Kolkata police at Kolkata airport, during a hearing on the Saradha chit fund case.

Seeking the top court’s intervention in the fight, Mehta said that central government officials in West Bengal were being threatened and intimidated. “ A lady, who happens to be the wife of a Member of Parliament, was stopped at Kolkata international airport by the customs officials to check her luggage. She was suspected of carrying (gold) bangles . But she refused to cooperate and called Kolkata police, who came and prevented the customs officials from carrying out their duties,” he added.

The woman referred to is the wife of Trinamool Congress lawmaker Abhishek Banerjee, chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew. On March 22, the state police entered the airport and forced the customs officials to release the influential MP’s wife who had flown in on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok.

The entire episode at the airport, captured on CCTV, provoked a sharp political slugfest in West Bengal after the state police reportedly refused to file a First Information Report, or FIR, on a complaint by customs officials. New Delhi and Kolkata have been sparring over several issues and on many fronts.

The Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party are the main contenders in the state in the summer’s Lok Sabha elections. Mehta told the court that “ the matter didn’t just end there and that a few hours later a team of Kolkata police arrived at the airport to arrest officers who had apprehended the lady.”

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi told Mehta that rather than making oral submissions, the Centre should file an application. “What are we supposed to do? You have to file an application. We cannot take it like this.”

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who represents West Bengal, objected to the Centre’s assertion, saying this was not an issue before the court and the centre was merely using the “Supreme Court as a platform to feed the press.”

The Central Bureau of Investigation has initiated contempt proceedings in the Supreme Court against former Kolkata police commissioner Rajeev Kumar, West Bengal’s chief secretary, and the state’s director general of police. CBI has alleged that Kumar has not been cooperating with CBi in the Saradha chit fund case.

Trinamool Congress leaders refused to comment on the incident. “Do not ask me any question on this matter. Neither me nor my party is involved with it,” CM Banerjee said on March 27 at the state secretariat.

First Published: Mar 29, 2019 16:20 IST