Updated: September 22, 2021 6:01:31 am
THE DELHI High Court on Tuesday declined to grant any interim relief to Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee in the case challenging the summons issued to them by Enforcement Directorate (ED) and asked the central agency to file a reply within three days. The couple have sought a direction that they be not summoned to Delhi and any further questioning of them be carried out only in Kolkata.
They have been summoned in a money laundering case registered by the agency in connection with CBI’s alleged case of illegal mining and theft of coal from the leasehold areas of Eastern Coalfields Ltd, according to the petition filed before the court.
Additional Solicitor General SV Raju argued before the court that there are no geographical divisions under Prevention of Money Laundering Act unlike police stations which have territorial jurisdictions.
“There are no such fetters as far as PMLA is concerned. The whole of India is a police station for the purposes of PMLA. There is no police station as far as PMLA is concerned,” Raju contended, while responding to an argument that Banerjee can be questioned only within the jurisdictional precinct in Kolkata.
ED also submitted that Banerjee has an address in Delhi and ordinarily, it is presumed that his wife will be there.“But we have with us documents to show that on the date the wife replied to us that she cannot come to Delhi, she was in a beauty parlour in Delhi. We have evidence we can produce. I’m sorry we don’t have have same treatment in our office as that of a beauty parlour,” Raju told the court.
In respect of the comment on beauty parlour visit, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the petitioners, argued that it is not the kind of submission he expects from an Additional Solicitor General. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who was also appearing in the matter, clarified that it was “not a sarcastic argument” and Raju was “merely saying” that she was in Delhi and they have evidence of her having been in the beauty parlour.
Abhishek and Rujira have argued before the court that there exists no jurisdiction for the ED’s Delhi-based Head Investigative Unit to assume investigative powers in the case “as the same could only have been investigated into by the concerned zonal office at Kolkata”.
Submitting that they have been repeatedly summoned to Delhi, their petition argues that the couple must be examined in Kolkata in compliance with provisions of PMLA and CrPC. “That a greater degree of protection is granted to a woman under Section 160 Cr.P.C., which mandates that a woman shall not be required to attend any place other than where she resides. That the repeated issuance of summons to the Petitioner No. 2 who is a lady, to appear before the Respondent is ex facie illegal and mala fide and hence intervention of this Hon’ble Court is sought before coercive measures are resorted to by the Respondent,” it reads.
Alleging that they have serious apprehensions about the fairness of the investigation being conducted by the ED, the couple have also claimed that the agency is adopting a pick and choose attitude “with respect to certain persons and is giving undue benefit and protection to complicit individuals and in return extracting false, baseless and malicious statements from them”.
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