ED summons to TN district collectors justified: SC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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ED summons to TN district collectors justified: SC

ByAbraham Thomas
Feb 24, 2024 08:10 AM IST

SC supports ED's summons to TN collectors in sand mining money laundering case; questions state for stalling probe. Matter listed for Feb 26.

The Supreme Court on Friday observed that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was justified in issuing summons to five district collectors of Tamil Nadu in connection with a money laundering case linked to “illegal” sand mining case; and instead questioned the state government for approaching the Madras high court to get a stay on the summons. The court listed the matter for February 26.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government, informed the court that there was no prohibition under law for the state to approach the high court (ANI)
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government, informed the court that there was no prohibition under law for the state to approach the high court (ANI)

Hearing ED’s plea against the high court order on November 28, 2023, which stayed the operation of the summonses issued to district collectors, a bench of justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal said, “These are offences which are scheduled offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The ED can make investigations as Section 50 of PMLA is for holding preliminary enquiry. Are they (district collectors) not supposed to cooperate with the probe agency.”

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Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the state government, informed the court that there was no prohibition under law for the state to approach the high court. He was assisted by TN additional advocate general Amit Anand Tiwari who pointed out that in all the five pleas on which the HC issued a common interim order, the collectors of Vellore, Trichy, Karur, Thanjavur and Ariyalur districts were co-petitioners.

The bench then remarked, “Under which law has the state filed a writ petition? How is the state aggrieved by the summons? We will stay this order.”

Additional solicitor general SV Raju, appearing for ED, told the court that the move is “hampering the probe”, and sought stay of the HC order. As Rohatgi sought time to file a response, the court posted the matter for Monday.

Rohatgi requested the Court for some time to file a response. He said, “The ED has no jurisdiction in this matter. These are issues related to federalism to which the state has right to object.” The Court placed the matter on Monday without issuing notice on the ED plea to enable a preliminary response from the state.

The ED had registered a complaint in September last year based on four FIRs filed in the state in connection with offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and other provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

Based on a scientific study conducted by ED using an expert team, ED claimed that the value of sand mining conducted in Tamil Nadu was to the tune of 4,730 crores as against the recorded revenue of 36.45 crores as per state records. To unearth the nexus between the state officials and local mafia the ED conducted raids at 34 places across various districts in the state leading to seizure of cash, incriminating documents and digital devices.

Based on the seizures, the summons were issued to the district collectors on November 17 under section 50 of PMLA.

The HC in its order staying summons had said, “This Court is prima facie convinced that the nature of enquiry contemplated by issuing the impugned summons is not within the jurisdiction of the respondent. It is just an attempt to investigate the possibility of identifying any proceeds of crime as a result of any criminal activity, which is not so far registered by the state agencies.”

In the petitions filed before the HC, the state government said that the ED had no jurisdiction to probe the matter without the consent of the state. Since it violates the basic structure of Constitution envisaging federalism and separation of powers, such enquiry by the ED without consent of state or by the direction of any constitutional court was unlawful.

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