The Centre told the Supreme Court on Friday that West Bengal police had attempted to intimidate Customs officials who wanted to check the luggage of “the wife of a sitting MP” at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata on March 16.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta raised this while appearing for the CBI in the chit fund scam cases but did not name the MP. It emerged from the complaint lodged by the Customs department with the local police that the reference was to Trinamool Congress MP and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee.
The complaint lodged by the Assistant Commissioner of Customs, Air Intelligence Unit of the airport, said the woman in question and her co-passenger were found to possess Thai passports.
Mehta said the local police had refused to file an FIR despite the Customs department’s complaint.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi asked Mehta to file an application in this regard.
Narrating the incident, the complaint said two women identified as Rujira Naroola and Menka Gambhir had arrived at the airport by a Thai Airways flight at about 1.10 am and were passing through the Green Channel.
They declined to show their passports and were carrying seven pieces of checked-in baggage, the complaint said. Despite requests, they refused to put the baggage through the X-Ray scanning machine and eventually did so “after a lot of reluctance”, it added.
The complaint said that on scanning, it was noticed that three of these pieces of baggage contained jewellery and the women were requested to open it, but they “started abusing the officers and threatened them with dire consequences”.
After a long persuasion, one bag was opened and it was found to contain two gold bangles, the complaint said, adding that the duo was then moved to the Red Channel. When asked to open the bags, “one of the ladies told the Customs officers that probably they did not know her identity and power” and “informed her location to somebody over the phone”, the department alleged.
After some time, police officers from the airport police station came to the international arrival hall and “informed that one of the lady passengers happened to be the wife of MP Shri Abhishek Banerjee and made a request to release these passengers immediately without any examination of their baggage”, but the Customs officials refused.
“One lady police constable came to the spot and informed the Customs officers that one of the lady passengers was the wife of the nephew of the Chief Minister of West Bengal,” the complaint said. Despite protests by the passengers, another luggage was opened and was found to contain two sets of jewellery, it said.
The Customs officials said they were under pressure to release the duo.
“In the meantime, it was found that both the passengers namely Ms Rujira Naroola, said to be the wife of MP Shri Abhishek Banerjee and Ms Menka Gambhir were having Thai passports bearing Nos. AA5663757 and AA5263387 respectively,” they added.
The duo finally left around 2.15 am through the Green Channel, after which another team of local policemen came enquiring for the officers who checked their baggage. “The contingent of police officers kept on increasing until the morning,” the Customs department said, adding that they had come to arrest the officers involved in intercepting the women.
Next day, a meeting was held between the Customs and police officials during which police told them that they were in receipt of a complaint by a woman “alleging misbehaviour, harassment, undue detention and extortion of money for clearance of her luggage”, the complaint said. They, however, did not divulge the name of the complainant but said it was related to the incident on March 16 morning, it said. The police wanted preparation of an SOP whereby VIPs are not checked and warned that if such incidents happened in the future, “that would be viewed seriously and severe action will be taken against the concerned customs officials which may include arrest/detention of the officer concerned”, the complaint said, adding that the Customs officials refused to yield.