I-T dept probes PAN de­tails of se­nior TMC leader’s wife

Hindustan Times (Patiala) - - Nation - Ra­jeev Jayaswal ra­[email protected] n


In­come tax au­thor­i­ties are in­ves­ti­gat­ing dis­crep­an­cies de­tected in the per­ma­nent ac­count num­ber held by Rujira Naroola alias Rujira Banerjee — wife of West Ben­gal chief min­is­ter Ma­mata Banerjee’s nephew and TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee — which she ap­par­ently pro­cured as an In­dian cit­i­zen de­spite hav­ing a Thai pass­port, three gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials with di­rect knowl­edge of the mat­ter said.

The home min­istry has also been asked to in­ves­ti­gate the Over­seas Cit­i­zen­ship of In­dia (OCI) card is­sued to her and her friend, Menka Gamb­hir, the of­fi­cials added, ask­ing not to be named. The fi­nance min­istry (which over­sees the tax depart­ment) is the lat­est to step into what has be­come a po­lit­i­cal slugfest be­tween the Tri­namool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, which are locked in an in­tense, and some­times vi­o­lent elec­toral bat­tle in West Ben­gal.

It all started on the in­ter­ven­ing night of March 15-16, when cus­toms of­fi­cials on duty at the Ne­taji Sub­has Chan­dra Bose In­ter­na­tional Air­port (NSCBI), Kolkata ac­costed the two women, who had ar­rived from Bangkok on the sus­pi­cion that they were try­ing to smug­gle in some­thing.

A tiff erupted, Rujira Banerjee made a call, and the state po­lice ap­peared in­side the air­port to es­cort the women out -- with­out cus­toms clear­ance. The Kolkata air­port’s Air In­tel­li­gence Unit filed a FIR on March 22, a copy of which has been seen by HT.

The of­fi­cials said that while OCIs can live and work in In­dia in­def­i­nitely, they are ex­pected to get PANs as foreign cit­i­zens and not as In­dian cit­i­zens. Af­ter the cus­toms depart­ment flagged these is­sues, the rev­enue depart­ment shot off a let­ter to the home min­istry in this re­gard.

Ac­cord­ing to the let­ter, a copy of which has been seen by HT, Rujira Naroola (alias Rujira Banerjee) had been found with the pass­port and OCI card is­sued to her as a cit­i­zen of Thai­land. The doc­u­ments men­tion her fa­ther’s name as ‘Niphon Naroola’. “How­ever, it has been found that for the PAN is­sued to Ms Naroola un­der the name of Rujira Banerjee, the fa­ther’s name has been men­tioned as ‘Gur­sha­ran Singh Ahuja’,” the let­ter said, adding, while Gamb­hir’s has a pass­port and an OCI card as a cit­i­zen of Thai­land, “it has been found that she has ob­tained a PAN as a cit­i­zen of In­dia”. The home min­istry is now asked to look into the is­sue.

TMC MP Abhishek Banerjee did not re­spond to an email seek­ing com­ment. A TMC spokesman, how­ever, said the mat­ter is po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated and con­tin­ues the trend of “po­lit­i­cal vendetta” by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah against po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents.

The three gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials quoted above said that the mat­ter is of “se­ri­ous na­ture”, “a breach of na­tional se­cu­rity” and added that claims be­ing made that the is­sue has been are not cor­rect.

The last is a ref­er­ence to me­dia re­ports cit­ing an RTI ap­pli­ca­tion filed by an ac­tivist with Kolkata Cus­toms and the re­sponse, which states that no one has been de­tained or ac­costed in Kolkata air­port thus far this year for il­le­gally car­ry­ing gold into In­dia

On May 11, the Cen­tral Board of In­di­rect Taxes and Cus­toms (CBIC) had is­sued a state­ment on May 11. It said the RTI ap­pli­ca­tion had sought in­for­ma­tion con­cern­ing “de­ten­tion of one Ms. Jas­mit Ahuja Banerjee (an­other name of Rujira Banerjee), and on the night of 16.03.2019 or in early morn­ing of 17.03.2019 (and not in the in­ter­ven­ing night of 15-16.03.2019 when the in­ci­dent de­scribed above oc­curred). Ac­cord­ingly, the re­ply of RTI was given with re­spect to the query on Jas­mit Ahuja Banerjee”.

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