Allowing the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate Trinamool Congress MP (and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew) Abhishek Banerjee in an alleged coal theft case in his state, The Supreme Court today told the Bengal government to cooperate with the central probe agency and provide protection to its officials when they are in the state to question the politician believed to No. 2 in the hierarchy of his party and its government.
The Supreme Court said the probe agency must tell Abhishek Banerjee at least 24 h before they intend to question him in the state capital Kolkata.
The Supreme Court also allowed the ED to appear before it if the investigators ran into any “obstruction” from the Bengal government. A bench of Justice UU Lalit said it will not “tolerate any kind of obstruction and interference by the state machinery”.
Abhishek Banerjee had asked for questioning in his home state and not in Delhi, where the probe agency has its headquarters. Banerjee’s party colleagues and the Chief Minister have often accused the BJP-led centre of using probe agencies to harass Trinamool politicians.
The Supreme Court has but stayed a bailable warrant issued by a Delhi court against Abhishek Banerjee’s wife, Rujira Banerjee, on a complaint by the ED for not answering the summons. Rujira Banerjee is one of the accused in the money laundering case linked to the Bengal coal scam.
The ED is pursuing the case against the Banerjee couple under India’s anti-money laundering law based on a First Information Report, or FIR, which the Central Bureau of Investigation had filed in November 2020, alleging multi-crore coal pilferage linked to mines of Eastern Coalfields Ltd in Bengal’s Kunustoria and Kajora, near District Asansol.