Tamil Nadu government moves Madras High Court against summons issued by ED to five Collectors

Justices S.S. Sundar and Sunder Mohan accept a request made by Advocate-General R. Shunmugasundaram for an early hearing since it is related to reported interference by the central investigating agency into State affairs

November 24, 2023 07:31 pm | Updated 07:31 pm IST - CHENNAI

Public Department Secretary K. Nanthakumar told the court that the central investigating agency could not violate the basic structure of federalism by conducting such an inquiry without the consent of the State government.

Public Department Secretary K. Nanthakumar told the court that the central investigating agency could not violate the basic structure of federalism by conducting such an inquiry without the consent of the State government.

The Madras High Court on Friday agreed to hear on Monday five writ petitions filed jointly by the State government and the Collectors of Ariyalur, Karur, Vellore, Thanjavur and Tiruchi districts challenging the summons issued to them by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) on November 17.

A Division Bench of Justices S.S. Sundar and Sunder Mohan accepted a request made by Advocate-General R. Shunmugasundaram for an early hearing of the case since it was related to “interference by the central investigating agency” into affairs that were exclusively within the domain of the State government.

Filing identical affidavits in all five writ petitions, Public Department Secretary K. Nanthakumar said the ED had asked the Collectors to appear in person, along with their Aadhaar cards, on different dates and produce all the details related to the sand mines located in their districts.

The summons also required the Collectors to produce details regarding the names of sand mining sites in their districts, the complete address of the quarries, their GPS coordinates, the GPS address of the sand depots, the GPS coordinates of the depots, the permitted area of mining and the permitted depth.

The Secretary stated that the Collectors had no clue about any Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) having been registered by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2022 with regard to sand mining in the State, and added that no such ECIR had been served upon them.

Even if an ECIR had been registered, Mr. Nanthakumar said, it could not be done since illegal sand mining was not a scheduled offence under PMLA. He said the summons had been issued illegally with a view to harassing and undermining the State machinery by conducing a fishing and roving inquiry.

The officer also claimed that the central investigating agency could not violate the basic structure of federalism by conducting such an inquiry without the consent of the State government. He accused the ED of choosing to inquire into such issues only in the States that were not ruled by the BJP.

“It is believed that around 50 FIRs of illegal sand mining have been registered in Madhya Pradesh in 2022-23, while in Gujarat, around 38,100 cases of illegal sand mining have been registered between 2015 and 2020. However, the ED has not shown any inclination to investigate in these States,” the affidavit read.

“Under the garb of exercising powers under the PMLA, the authorities acting under it cannot initiate action in matters wherein they have no jurisdiction. Such action/exercise of power would be vitiated on account of malice in law. The action impugned (under challenge) are taken for collateral, oblique and improper purposes and amount to colourable exercise of power,” it added.

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