A 47-year-old coincidence came back to haunt businessman Balbir Singh at the airport last week, when he was mistaken for his namesake, who is on the run from the CBI, and detained for over a day.
The realtor from Bhowanipore was headed for the US with his wife for a holiday. They left on Sunday, after shelling out Rs 25,000 for postponing their booking.
“When I produced my passport at the immigration counter of the airport, the officials manning it said a CBI case was pending against me and the agency was looking for me,” recounted Singh. This was around 9.30am on May 17.
The officials called up the CBI Delhi office and were asked to detain Singh.
By then, he and his wife Paramjit had boarded the flight. “I was asked to get off. My wife was scared and accompanied me,” said the businessman.
Singh tried to explain to the immigration officials that there had been some mistake. They said they were merely following orders.
Around 3pm, two CBI officials from Calcutta interrogated Singh and checked his papers. “They were convinced I was not the Balbir Singh they were looking for, although we were born on the same day 47 years ago,” said the realtor.
The immigration officials got a picture of the wanted man faxed from Delhi. “After scrutinising the picture, the CBI officials admitted that the absconding man was a different person but could not let me go as the order from Delhi was to detain me,” Singh said.
That evening, three CBI officials boarded the Calcutta-bound Rajdhani Express at New Delhi to interrogate Singh. The businessman spent the night at Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose International Airport police station, before they arrived in the city and gave him the clean chit.
At the police station, Singh was kept in “safe custody” but was not put behind bars. “The officers behaved very well. I ate and slept on a bench that night. It was a strange feeling,” said Singh.
The next afternoon, the CBI officials grilled him. “They asked me for documents to prove that I am a resident of Calcutta for more than a decade. Since I was born here, I did not face any problem in producing the papers,” said Singh.
He and his wife were part of a group of 31 tourists from the city, on its way to the US via Dubai on an Emirates flight for a 21-day trip.
“It’s one of the rarest of the rare cases,” said a CBI official over phone from Delhi.
The CBI team has prepared a 12-page report on Singh. “Although we are certain he is innocent, an inquiry will be carried out,” said an official.
The airport police prepared a separate report on the incident to ensure that Singh did not face such harassment in future.
“At least one lookout notice is issued every day. The process is meant to ensure that criminals do not leave the country,” said the CBI official.