No coercive action against ED officials, HC tells Crime Branch

High Court

Kochi: The High Court of Kerala directed the State Crime Branch not to initiate coercive action against Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials in the wake of a case filed gainst them for allegedly forcing Swapna Suresh, a key accused in the diplomatic channel gold smuggling case, to falsely implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

Justice V G Arun, however, turned down ED counsel Thushar Mehta's request for a stay on the case against the officials. The court had rejected the request last week also.

The court recorded the government's statement that officials would not be summoned as part of the investigation. Further hearing of the petition filed by P Radhakrishnan, Deputy Director, ED, seeking to quash the FIR registered by Crime Branch would commence on April 8.

The hearing, which began at 11 am on Wednesday, continued till 4pm. The case was deferred since the court had other cases under its consideration.

Additional solicitor generals S V Raju and K M Natarajan appeared for Radhakrishnan and ED, respectively. Senior Supreme Court Advocate Harin P Raval, representing the government, is yet to conclude his arguments.

Meanwhile, advocates appearing for the State and Central governments entered into a heated argument after Suvin R Menon, representing the central government, submitted before the court that Deputy Commissioner of Police (Kochi) Aishwarya Dongre had summoned Assistant Commissioner (customs) on Wednesday morning.

Following Senior Government Pleader Suman Chakravarthy submission that the DCP, law and order, had no role in the Crime Branch probe, the court recorded the assurance that officials won’t be summoned.

ED creating a smokescreen: Kerala govt

Central agencies will not be able to function without fear or favour in Kerala if the first information report (FIR) by the Crime Branch is allowed, Solicitor General Thushar Mehta argued before the High Court on Wednesday.

The Crime Branch move is sabotaging the rule of the law, Mehta said. Harin P Raval, appearing for the State government, countered, saying the Enforcement Directorate is creating a smokescreen by detailing the case charged under the Prevention of Money Laundering ACT (PMLA) instead of the FIR.

The Enforcement Directorate argued: Another probe agency cannot verify the credibility of the evidence an investigation agency had already placed before the court. It’s up to the court to check its veracity. A truncated FIR won’t stand legal scrutiny. No deliberate attempts were made to implicate anyone in the case. A conclusion should be arrived at through trial, and not through evidence submitted parallely.

The Government contended that "the FIR is not linked to the PMLA case. The aim is not to protect the gold smugglers. The investigation is in the primary stage. The probe was into checking the veracity of the audio clip of a conversation purportedly between Swapna Suresh and someone else. The probe was launched based on letter by the ED."

Evidence collected warranted the registration of a case. The government is duty-bound to probe a serious crime.

'Move to implicate leaders'

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is trying to trap leaders of the ruling party, the State government alleged.

The allegation was included in an affidavit by M P Priyamol, Under Secretary in the Department of Home. The affidavit was filed against a supplementary petition by ED Deputy Director P Radhakrishnan.

The ED is continuing its probe with political interests even after submitting the chargesheet. The petitioner is neither an accused nor a witness. His intention is to understand the course of the investigation and to identify the witnesses and threaten them.

The petitioner had earlier made repeated attempts to link the probe against former Principal Secretary M Sivasankar with the chief minister.

The supplementary affidavit also raised concerns over the delay in probe in the case involving central agencies. The delay may help in destroying evidence.

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