ED overreach: Central agency should pay heed to SC observation - The Tribune India

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ED overreach

Central agency should pay heed to SC observation

ED overreach

SOUNDING a cautionary note, the Supreme Court has told the Enforcement Directorate (ED) not to create an atmosphere of fear, while observing that even a bona fide cause becomes suspect when the agency does that. The ED has been accused by the Chhattisgarh government of trying to implicate the Chief Minister in a money laundering case linked to the Rs 2,000-crore liquor scam in the state. The Congress dispensation has claimed that the ED is acting at the behest of its political masters and conducting a ‘completely biased’ investigation. According to the state government, these actions are premeditated, designed to create instability in Chhattisgarh.

It is no surprise that this confrontation is taking place in an Opposition-ruled state, and that too which is going to the polls later this year. The Aam Aadmi Party (Delhi and Punjab) and the Trinamool Congress (West Bengal) have also been accusing the Central government of misusing the ED and other agencies for political gains. Earlier this month, the apex court had taken the Centre to task for granting a third extension to ED chief Sanjay Kumar Mishra, while wondering what made him ‘so indispensable’. Subsequently, the government told the court that Mishra would not continue in office beyond November. The ED’s ‘unfettered’ powers under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have also been challenged in the SC.

All these allegations and controversies reflect poorly on the country’s premier agency that probes cases pertaining to money laundering and violation of foreign exchange laws. The ED needs to ensure that its officials do not resort to intimidation and harassment of suspects. The power to ‘search, seize, summon and arrest’ must be used judiciously. Overreach and overzealousness will only undermine the agency’s credibility and give corrupt people a pretext to play the victim card. Political one-upmanship can be detrimental to the Union government’s efforts to root out corruption.


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