Supreme Court agrees to list TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee's plea in money laundering case

Trinamool Congress's (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee have challenged the Delhi High Court order dated March 11 which dismissed their pleas

ANIUpdated: Tuesday, April 05, 2022, 12:38 PM IST
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Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee | PTI

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday agreed to list next week, a plea filed by Trinamool Congress (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee challenging the Delhi High Court order.

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Abhishek Banerjee urged the Supreme Court for an urgent hearing of his plea.

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said that it will list it next week.

Trinamool Congress's (TMC) MP Abhishek Banerjee and his wife Rujira Banerjee have challenged the Delhi High Court order dated March 11 which dismissed their pleas.

Filing the plea through advocate Sunil Fernandes, Banerjee's requested the top court to quash summons and restrain ED from seeking their presence for questioning in Delhi. They pleaded that they can be questioned by the ED at Kolkata and sought a stay on the High Court's order.

The petitioners have asked the apex court to decide whether the ED can assume pan-India jurisdiction to summon persons from anywhere to Delhi.

"Whether the respondent can assume pan-India jurisdiction to summon any person at the place of their choice while exercising powers under Section 50 PMLA?," the plea questioned while adding that High Court has failed to appreciate that the couple is permanent residents of Kolkata and the entire alleged cause of action and the place of the alleged offence, is in West Bengal.

The search and seizure operations recorded in the FIR/RC took place in West Bengal wherein allegedly stolen coal was recovered and all the accused persons named in the FIR/RC are permanent residents of West Bengal, it added.

Seeking relief from appearance in Delhi, the plea stated, "Direct the Respondent (ED) to summon the Petitioners under Section 50 PMLA only at Kolkata (for Petitioner no. 1 -Abhishek Banerjee) or only at their residence (for Petitioner no. 2 - Rujira Banerjee), as the case may be, during the pendency of the present proceedings."

The High Court on March 11 dismissed their plea and following this, the ED issued fresh summons to Banerjee and his wife to depose before the financial probe agency's office in Delhi on March 21 and 22.

Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee, was grilled for eight hours straight by ED officials when he last appeared at the agency office in Delhi in September 2021.

Approaching the top court, Banerjee said he belongs to the TMC and was a leading figure in keenly contested Assembly Elections in West Bengal in April-May 2021 (around the same time when the FIR was registered) wherein his party trounced the political party at power in the Centre, and "thereby giving justifiable cause to "target" and "fix" the Petitioner no.1 (Banerjee) by misusing the Central Investigation Agencies".

The contention of the petitioners is that this entire case against them is nothing but a political witch-hunt and cannot be brushed away lightly as done in the impugned order (of the High Court), the plea drawn by advocate Fernandes said.

"The Petitioners' contention of political victimization is further fortified by the inscrutable and inexplicable insistence of the ED to interrogate the petitioners at their New Delhi office instead of their full-fledged office in Kolkata. The ED seems more interested in causing prejudice to the Petitioners herein rather than sincerely and expeditiously investigating the alleged offence," it added.

The plea further stated that the High Court order is "misconceived, erroneous and deserves to be set aside".

The High Court had dismissed Banerjees' plea who had challenged the September 10, 2021 summons issued to them and had sought direction to the ED not to summon them for their appearance in Delhi since they are residents of West Bengal.

The 34-year-old MP represents the Diamond Harbour seat in Lok Sabha and is the national general secretary of the TMC.

The ED lodged a case under the provisions of the PMLA based on a November 2020 FIR registered by the CBI that alleged a multi-crore coal pilferage scam related to Eastern Coalfields Ltd mines in the state's Kunustoria and Kajora areas in and around Asansol.

Local coal operative Anup Majee is alleged to be the prime suspect in the case. The ED had claimed that the TMC MP was a beneficiary of funds obtained from this illegal trade. Banerjee has denied all charges.

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