The Supreme Court Friday issued notice to the West Bengal government on alleged harassment of custom officials at Kolkata airport for checking the luggage a Trinamool Congress leader's wife. Headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, an apex court bench also termed the alleged incident "very very serious".
"Someone has drawn our attention to something. It is very very serious. We do not know whose claims are bona fide," said the bench, also comprising Justice Sanjiv Khanna. It did not consider the submission of senior advocate A M Singhvi that no notice was required to be issued on the petition.
On March 29, the Centre had told the apex court that custom officials at the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport in Kolkata were "intimidated, harassed and threatened" by the local police for checking the baggage of the wife of a TMC MP Abhishek Bannerjee, Nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee. It had also alleged that "institutional anarchy" and "complete lawlessness" have been prevailing in West Bengal.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta Mehta had told the court that on the intervening night of March 15-16 at around 1.10 AM, two women, who arrived from an international flight, and their luggage were checked by the custom officials. "They were asked to allow checking of their baggage but they resisted. They were asked to show their passports after which they abused the officials present there," he had said.
Mehta had added that soon after the ladies left the airport, a huge contingent of police personnel entered the premises and tried to arrest the custom officials for checking the baggage of the women. "This is institutional anarchy and complete lawlessness going on in West Bengal," he had said, adding that custom officials tried to lodge the FIR but no case was registered by the police so far.
A letter was written by Assistant Commissioner of Customs to Inspector in-charge of Airport police station on March 22, seeking registration of an FIR for interfering, obstruction and criminal intimidation by the West Bengal police, he had said. The custom commissioner has narrated the entire incident and said that one of the ladies whose baggage was checked was wife TMC MP, the nephew of the West Bengal CM, as per the letter.
The Commissioner alleged that police officers who entered the airport in different batches tried to intimidate, harass and threaten the custom officials with arrests. The commissioner has said that West Bengal police wanted a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) by the custom officials where VIPs were not "checked" and "a safe passage of their VIPs without any interception by customs".
Police personnel, who arrived at the airport, have claimed that they have received a complaint from one of the two women who were checked by custom officials alleging harassment, intimidation and extortion by them, the letter said.
(With inputs from agencies.)