Infra board case: Former Kerala minister gets HC relief till August 17

Updated on Aug 12, 2022 04:47 AM IST

In the petition Thomas Issac said that Enforcement Directorate (ED) has sought details about his properties and family members’ assets. He moved the court on Wednesday after the central agency served notices to him twice.

Former Kerala minister Thomas Issac said the ED had issued two summons against him under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, Income Tax Act and Code of Civil Procedure seeking details of his role in KIIFB with respect to issuing masala bonds (HT Archives)
Former Kerala minister Thomas Issac said the ED had issued two summons against him under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, Income Tax Act and Code of Civil Procedure seeking details of his role in KIIFB with respect to issuing masala bonds (HT Archives)
By, Thiruvananthapuram

The Kerala high court on Thursday pulled up the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials over why former finance minister Thomas Issac was asked to furnish details of his assets at the preliminary stage of a case and directed it not to question him till next Wednesday.

Justice V G Arun raised the question while hearing a petition filed by Issac, questioning the summons in connection with financial transactions of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Development Board (KIIFB).

In the petition he said that the ED has sought details about his properties and family members’ assets. He moved the court on Wednesday after the central agency served notices to him twice.

“He has the right to privacy and it can only be breached under the procedure established by law. At the first instance, can you ask for all these details? What is the material before you to conclude that all these documents should be produced? To ask someone to produce all private information, this has to be explained,” the court observed.

At this point the ED counsel said the petitioner was not an accused at the moment and it sought details only as a witness. But senior counsel Sidharth Dave who was appearing for the petitioner said the ED issued summons after summons without clarifying the crime committed by Issac. Then the court observed that the summons can be issued to even witnesses. After the ED counsel Jaisankar V Nair sought more time to file reply, the petition was deferred till Wednesday and the court directed the ED not to question him till then.

Issac said the ED had issued two summons against him under the Foreign Exchange Management Act, Income Tax Act and Code of Civil Procedure seeking details of his role in the KIIFB with respect to issuing masala bonds.

In May 2019 KIIFB floated sub-sovereign masala bonds at London Stock Exchange to garner fund and initially issued 21, 500 million rupee-denominated bonds. Masala bonds are bonds issued outside India denominated in Indian rupees instead of normally preferred US dollars. In 2021 the Comptroller and Auditor General of India had questioned the move saying masala bonds caused a liability worth 3100 crore to the exchequer.

But the agency has not revealed the nature of violation committed by him. All actions of KIIFB were performed legally and details are available in public domain, he said.

KIIFB was constituted by the state government on the lines of a corporate financial institution to mobilize funds for infrastructure development in the state.

Talking to the media, Issac, also a left economist, said the latest moves were politically-motivated and aimed at targeting the KIIFB. “The central agency is scouting for evidence to pinpoint any wrong doings and sabotage the KIIFB which is changing the face of the state,” he said. Opposition leader V D Satheesan also criticised the ED move to summon him. “We have no idea on what basis he was summoned,” he said.

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