Won’t press for K Kavitha’s questioning in Delhi excise policy case: ED to top court

Sep 16, 2023 05:02 AM IST

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had summoned K Kavitha for questioning in New Delhi on Friday over the alleged scam related to now-scrapped Delhi excise policy

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Friday told the Supreme Court it will not press for the appearance of K Kavitha, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) legislator and Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter, for questioning over the alleged scam related to now-scrapped Delhi excise policy until the court considers her petition against the summons and the agency’s proceedings. Kavitha was summoned for questioning in New Delhi on Friday.

Bharat Rashtra Samithi legislator K Kavitha. (PTI)
Bharat Rashtra Samithi legislator K Kavitha. (PTI)

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Additional solicitor-general SV Raju, who appeared for the ED, told a bench of justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia that Kavitha appeared before the agency on previous occasions, including in March this year. He added therefore no protective order is required.

Kavitha’s lawyer, Vikram Choudhury, objected to the submission citing similar protection the court has granted in the past to others including Nalini Chidambaram. In 2018, the court restrained the ED from summoning Nalini Chidambaram, a senior advocate and former Union minister P Chidambaram’s wife, in a ponzi scam case.

Choudhury urged the bench to grant similar protection to Kavitha, arguing there is no reason why his client is treated differently. The senior counsel added Kavitha cannot be subjected to repeated summons. Choudhury noted Kavitha’s plea against the summons and for protection from arrest in the money laundering case arising out of the alleged scam remained pending.

The bench asked Raju if the agency was willing to defer the summons on its own or if it would take a court order. Raju told the bench that ED will not press for Kavitha’s appearance before the agency for 10 days or until the court hears her petition.

Kavitha, 44, approached the court in March, challenging the ED summons and demanding protection from any possible coercive measure. Her petition questioned whether a woman could be summoned to the ED office for questioning under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). It referred to the pendency of similar pleas of Nalini Chidambaram and Trinamool Congress leader Abhishek Banerjee on the applicability of Section 50.

The ED has said that Section 50 of PMLA proceedings is an inquiry, governed under the procedure of the anti-money laundering law, and therefore, the requirement of the Criminal Procedure Code does not come in until a person is arrested. A detailed hearing of the matter is yet to take place.

The ED, the federal anti-money laundering probe agency, is probing Kavitha’s alleged role in influencing the now-scrapped excise policy and alleged bribery, said officials. It alleged that Kavitha was in touch with Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s communication in-charge Vijay Nair, who met liquor businessmen and politicians at the time of policy formulation and implementation. The ED alleged that Pillai represented the “South Group“, an alleged liquor cartel linked to Kavitha and others, which paid kickbacks amounting to about 100 crore to the AAP to gain a larger share of the market in the national Capital under the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy for 2020-21.

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The “South group”, according to the ED, comprised Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Pharma), Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy (YSR Congress Member of Parliament from Andhra Pradesh), his son Raghav Magunta, Kavitha, and others. The agency has claimed a part of the 100 crore kickbacks generated from the policy was used in the AAP campaign in the 2022 Goa assembly election. The agency has pegged the loss due to irregularities in the case at 2,873 crore.

Kavitha has rubbished the allegations against her. She has maintained that “these tactics of intimidation against the fight of my father and chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao, and the BRS will not deter us”.

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