The Tamil Nadu government has moved the Madras High Court against the Enforcement Directorate summons to 10 district collectors in the state, reported The Indian Express on Saturday.
The central agency has summoned the district collectors as part of its investigation into allegations of irregularities and malpractices in the mining and sale of river sand in Tamil Nadu, according to DT Next.
Engineers of the Water Resources Department were earlier interrogated by the agency to collect details of the procedure for the sale of sand illegally mined. Those questioned had reportedly pointed fingers at the district collectors.
In its petition, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam government has accused the Enforcement Directorate of selectively exercising its powers in a “pick-and-choose approach” and raised questions about the lack of investigations into similar offences in states governed by the Bharatiya Janata Party.
“The political implications of the Enforcement Directorate’s probe cannot be understated,” a senior legal counsel of the Tamil Nadu government was quoted as saying. “Their actions are not just an overreach of their authority but also a strategic move by the BJP-led central government to weaken Opposition-ruled states.”
The state government also called the investigation a “fishing and roving enquiry” as the agency has reportedly asked the district collectors to appear before it with their Aadhaar cards without giving them details of the case being investigated.
The government said that the Enforcement Directorate’s actions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act intrude into matters under state jurisdiction, notably the regulation of mines and minerals.
Stating that the district collectors were neither accused nor witnesses in any money-laundering case, the government requested the High Court to put an interim stay on the summons and further proceedings.
An unidentified senior Enforcement Directorate official told The Indian Express that the agency has “uncovered potential procedural irregularities and illicit sales of mined sand”. He said that this pointed to the complicit role of district collectors.
In September, the agency conducted surprise inspections at several sand quarry sites and seized CCTV data storage devices, computer hard disks and allegedly incriminating documents, including fake QR codes.