SC notice to Bengal over harassment of customs officials

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SC notice to Bengal over harassment of customs officials

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday issued a notice to the West Bengal government for alleged harassment of some customs officials by the state police for checking the baggage of Trinamool Congress MP’s wife, who is also nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, at the Kolkata airport.

The customs officials stopped Rujira Narula, the wife of Trinamool MP Abhishek Banerjee, at the airport for carrying excess gold from Bangkok. The Customs Department in its petition said that Rujira had not even mentioned it in the deceleration form on March 16.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that the Customs Department has drawn attention to something very serious happening at the airport, and the state government needs to file a reply.

As senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the apex court’s observation would be widely reported in the media, the CJI replied: “We are not concerned about who reports what.”

To this, Singhvi said that his objections to the Customs’ petition should be recorded in the order of the court. The CJI declined to do so and asked: “What is happening in West Bengal? We could have taken suo motu notice of the incident and sought state’s response.”

The Customs Department in its petition said that this kind of interference by the state police obstructs the department from discharging its duties.

“The conduct of the West Bengal Police is an attempt to instil fear in the minds of customs officials at the airport that if they do not succumb to illegal and mala fide demand of the police to allow all VIPs pass through the Green Channel without any checking, they shall be targeted…”

During a hearing on March 29, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta had told the court that an FIR was registered by the state police against customs officials.

The SG alleged that a complaint lodged by the customs officials against the police officers, who “abused and resorted to criminal intimidation and voluntarily obstructing customs officials from performing their duties”, was not even being considered seriously.

“There is a constitutional anarchy in West Bengal, if I may say it succinctly,” Mehta had told the court.