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Supreme Court cautions ED, Don’t create atmosphere of fear

The main focus of this article is the cautionary remarks made by the Supreme Court to the Enforcement Directorate (ED). It also delves into the jurisdictional concerns surrounding the ED and allegations of harassment. (Source: The Hindu , 17th May,2023)

Supreme Court cautions ED, Don’t create atmosphere of fear

What is the context?

The Supreme Court criticized the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) probe into an alleged liquor syndicate scam in Chhattisgarh. The state government raised questions regarding the jurisdiction and alleged harassment by the agency.

Allegations of ED Probe Without Jurisdiction:
  • Chhattisgarh government claims that the ED is conducting a probe without jurisdiction.
  • They allege that the ED’s sole objective is to implicate Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel.
  • Officers of the state excise department claim harassment and coercion by the agency.
  • Moreover, they allege that the “real target” of the ED’s actions is the state CM.
  • Territorial jurisdiction and legal propriety have been overlooked in the corruption probe.
Bench’s Response:
  • Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Ahsanuddin Amanullah seek a reply from the ED.
  • They emphasize the crucial need for public confidence in investigative agencies.
  • The Supreme Court clarifies that quashing the base FIR or exonerating the accused prohibits the ED from continuing its probe under PMLA. In response, the court instructs the ED to provide materials demonstrating the legitimacy of its actions.
  • The court declares that they have yet to settle the issue of territorial jurisdiction.
  • The ED initiates prosecution under PMLA based on a base FIR registered by CBI or other agencies.
ED’s Defense and Scam Unearthed:
  • Furthermore, the ED has uncovered a massive scam involving high-level officials, private individuals, and politicians.
  • This money laundering case originates from a 2022 income tax department charge sheet.
Jurisdiction of Enforcement Directorate
  • The Enforcement Directorate enforces the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) by investigating money laundering offenses, tracing assets, and prosecuting offenders.
  • It also enforces the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) by investigating contraventions of foreign exchange laws and imposing penalties.
  • The Directorate attaches properties of fugitive economic offenders under the Fugitive Economic Offenders Act, 2018 (FEOA).
  • Additionally, the Enforcement Directorate sponsors cases of preventive detention under COFEPOSA for FEMA contraventions. In the context of the Enforcement Directorate sponsoring cases of preventive detention under COFEPOSA, “sponsor” means that the Directorate initiates or supports the process of preventive detention by providing the necessary evidence or information to the relevant authorities. The Directorate takes an active role in presenting the case and advocating for the detention of individuals who have contravened the provisions of FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act).

The territorial jurisdiction of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in India extends throughout the entire country. The ED is a law enforcement agency that operates under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and is responsible for investigating and prosecuting cases of money laundering and related financial crimes. It has the authority to investigate offenses committed within the territorial boundaries of India, regardless of the state or region.

Conclusion and way ahead

The Enforcement Directorate’s probe into the alleged liquor syndicate scam in Chhattisgarh highlights jurisdictional issues and harassment allegations. The Supreme Court’s clarification on the base FIR and exoneration impacting the ED’s probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is significant.

Going forward, the ED should address the state government’s concerns, ensuring transparency and legal compliance. Providing evidence to demonstrate the legitimacy of their actions, as directed by the Supreme Court, is crucial. Restoring public confidence in investigative agencies is vital, emphasizing fairness and impartiality in investigations.

Moreover, the ED should effectively combat money laundering and financial crimes nationwide, utilizing its jurisdiction and authority under the PMLA. Upholding justice and preserving the integrity of the financial system is paramount.

By addressing jurisdictional concerns, addressing harassment allegations, and upholding fairness and transparency, the ED can enhance its credibility and contribute to more effective enforcement of financial laws in India.

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