MHA notice to TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee’s wife for discrepancies in OCI card
Trinamool Congress lawmaker Abhishek Banerjee’s wife may have to do some more explaining to do. Days after she was stopped by customs officials at Kolkata airport triggering a huge political row, Rujira Naroola has been sent a notice by the Union Home Ministry in Delhi demanding that she explain discrepancies in the name of her father in the PIO card and OCI card.
The ministry has also threatened to cancel her Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) card if she does not reply within 15 days.
Hindustan Times is in possession of the home ministry letter dated March 29 and signed by deputy secretary Manoj Kumar Jha.
Naroola was issued a Persons of Indian Origin (PIO) card on January 8, 2010 by the Indian Embassy in Bangkok. The PIO card was converted into an OCI card on November 8, 2017 by the Foreigners Regional Registration Office (FRRO) in Kolkata.
While the PIO card mentioned her father as Niphon Naroola, her marriage certificate which was submitted as a supporting document for converting from PIO to OCI status, mentioned her father’s name as Gursharan Singh Ahuja. Abhishek and Rujira got married on February 3, 2013.
The two-page MHA letter also alleged that on November 14, 2009, Rujira Naroola applied for a Permanent Account Number (PAN ), “mentioning Shri Gursharan Singh Ahuja” as her father.
“The central government has examined the matter and noticed the discrepancies mentioned above and is prima facie of the opinion that the registration of Ms Rujira Naroola as an OIC cardholder is liable for cancellation in the interest of general public under Sub Clauses (a) and (e) of Section D of the Citizenship Act, 1955,” the letter said.
“Rujira Naroola, an OCI cardholder, is hereby called upon to show cause as to why she has made a false representation and concealed material facts while submitting documents before the Competent Authorities to get her OCI and PAN cards. If no reply is received within 15 days from the date of issue of this notice then appropriate decision in the matter would be taken on merit on the basis of available records by the Central Government.”
The letter also alleges that she applied for the PAN card while concealing her identity as a foreign national. A PIO card holder does not need a visa to visit India and is not required to register at the FRRO during his/her stay in India. An OCI cardholder can open special bank accounts in India, purchase non-farm property and obtain drivers’ license and PAN card.
Her husband Abhishek Banerjee is the nephew of West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee and her heir apparent in the ruling party of Bengal. He is also the party’s candidate from the Diamond Harbour Lok Sabha constituency which he won in 2014.
Abhishek Banerjee and his media adviser did not respond to repeated calls and text messages.
On Wednesday, Communist Party of India (Marxist) central committee member Rabin Deb said, “We welcome the Centre’s step. However, it remains to be seen what further steps the Centre eventually takes. We hope it (this matter) won’t suffer the fate of the Saradha scam probe that seems to be heading nowhere, even after five years.”
BJP Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta said that none should get immunity from prosecution for providing the country’s authorities misleading information. “We will wait to see what they (the Banerjee couple) have to say. I’m sure the law will take its own course, if the investigation finds mala fide intentions,” Dasgupta said.
Rujira Naroola hit the headlines a fortnight ago when she allegedly intimidated Customs officials at the Kolkata airport for stopping her while bringing gold into the country from Thailand on March 16.
That Naroola carries a Thai passport (AA5663757) became public only after the controversy at Kolkata airport on the intervening night of March 15-16, when Customs officers stopped her along with an associate, allegedly for carrying gold in three suitcases. They had landed by a flight from Bangkok at 12:40 am on March 16.
Mamata Banerjee has refused to talk about the airport incident saying it did not concern her. In a press conference on March 16, Abhishek Banerjee, had said the controversy at the airport was a personal matter and did not concern the TMC.