ED moves Kerala HC against judicial probe

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Thursday moved the High Court against the Kerala government’s decision to establish a judicial commission of enquiry to examine the alleged attempt on the part of the agency to implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the diplomatic baggage gold smuggling case.

The ED’s contention has set the stage for a legal wrangle between the Centre and State over the jurisdictional boundary in a federal set-up.

The litigation has political overtones. Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said the State’s bid to investigate a Central agency would weaken the federal structure. Mr. Singh had pointed out that Mr. Vijayan had sought a Central investigation into the crime in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Govt. stance

In an explanatory note issued in May, the government had said the Customs and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had discarded professionalism and pursued a path of political partisanship to ensnare the Chief Minister in criminal cases.

The officers had strayed from their original purpose of finding the source of the contraband gold, its intended recipients and those who facilitated and profited from the racket. Instead, it had coerced the accused to implicate Mr. Vijayan in the case falsely, the note said.

‘Overstepping jurisdiction’

The ED contended that the State government had overstepped its jurisdiction. It portrayed the commission as an attempt to stifle the ongoing investigation against those who had abetted the money-laundering aspect of the crime that primarily involved smuggling gold via the diplomatic channel of the UAE consulate in Thiruvananthapuram during the 2019-20 period.

The ED pointed out that the former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister was the fifth accused in the case.

Earlier in April, the High Court had quashed two FIRs registered by the State police against ED officials on the charge of coercing the accused to give false statements against the Chief Minister and his office.

An ED official said money laundering was a Union subject. Hence, the State government had overstepped its constitutional bounds by instituting a judicial probe against the ED. A State official said the terms of reference of the commissioner of enquiry did not cover the money laundering offence. It only looked into the conspiracy to implicate Chief Minister in the case. Law and order was a State subject, he added.

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Printable version | Aug 5, 2021 4:39:59 AM |

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