Tamil Nadu

Madras HC allows ED to proceed with inquiry against T.N. Fisheries Minister

Anitha R. Radhakrishnan

Anitha R. Radhakrishnan | Photo Credit: The Hindu

The Madras High Court has modified an interim order passed in favour of Fisheries Minister Anitha R. Radhakrishnan on June 29 and made it clear that the inquiry against him in a money laundering case booked by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) could continue and he should cooperate with the probe.

Justices S. Vaidyanathan and A.D. Jagadish Chandira modified the order after special public prosecutor for the ED N. Ramesh referred to the recent judgment passed by the Supreme Court upholding the powers of the ED to summon, arrest and conduct raids under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002.

The judges took note that an interim stay of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) granted by a different Bench on June 29 had expired on July 18. Thereafter, the ED had given verbal assurances to the court that no coercive action would be taken and the Minister had agreed to participate in the inquiry.

Therefore, observing that the issue could not be kept pending endlessly, the Bench led by Justice Vaidyanathan modified the order of interim stay and permitted ED to proceed with the inquiry. They, however, made it clear that they were not rendering any opinion on the legal submissions made by the parties to the case.

In his affidavit, the Minister told the court that the ED had registered the ECIR against him on December 2020 on the basis of a disproportionate assets case booked by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) in 2006. He claimed that the PMLA could not be pressed into service in the present case as it had come into force only on July 1, 2005.

Stating that the check period in the disproportionate assets case was between May 14, 2001, and March 31, 2006, the petitioner said the DVAC had accused him of having amassed ₹2.68 crore disproportionate to his known sources of income when he was Minister for Housing and Urban Development in the AIADMK regime between 2001 and 2006.

His family members were also included in the case and it was now pending before the Thoothukudi Principal District and Sessions Court. The trial court had refused to discharge him from the case in 2013 and the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court confirmed the order in 2017. Now, the plea for discharge was pending before the Supreme Court.

Based on that predicate offence, the ED had registered the ECIR on December 22, 2020 on the premise that the offences alleged in the DVAC FIR were scheduled offences under the PMLA. However, the ED sleuths had failed to give attention to the fact that Section 13 of the Prevention of Corruption Act was made a part of the scheduled offences under PMLA only in June 2009 and it was not a scheduled offence when the latter Act came into force in July 2005, he contended.

The PMLA, being a penal statue, could not operate retrospectively since that would be in violation of Article 20 (1) ( no person shall be convicted of any offence except for violation of a law in force at the time of the commission of the act charged as an offence) of the Constitution, he argued.

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Printable version | Aug 16, 2022 12:53:44 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/madras-hc-allows-ed-to-proceed-with-inquiry-against-tn-fisheries-minister/article65771145.ece