The Madras High Court on Tuesday stayed the Enforcement Directorate’s summons to five district collectors in an alleged money-laundering case for three weeks, Live Law reported.
The central agency had summoned 10 district collectors as part of its investigation into allegations of irregularities and malpractices in sand mining and the sale of river sand in Tamil Nadu. The state government, along with five of the collectors, had challenged the summons before the High Court.
The court gave three weeks of time to the Enforcement Directorate to respond to the petitions.
On Monday, Senior Advocate Dushyant Dave, appearing for the state government, contended that the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act was a code in itself and that the agency did not have any investigative powers under the law. He argued that offences under this Act were not scheduled offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, according to Live Law.
Under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the Enforcement Directorate can only file a complaint pertaining to money laundering allegations based on a case registered by another investigative agency. The original case is called a scheduled offence or a predicate offence.
However, Additional Solicitor General ARL Sundaresan, representing the agency, said that the district collectors were only being called to assist the investigation, and that no roving or fishing inquiry was being conducted. He said that none of the petitioners were accused persons in the case, and demanded that the case be dismissed.
Engineers of the Water Resources Department were interrogated earlier by the Enforcement Directorate to collect details of the procedure for the alleged 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.