The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to direct the ED to record in Kerala statements of Popular Front of India (PFI) members in a money laundering case, saying that a Court cannot dictate the mode and manner of an investigation.
Hearing a plea against summons issued to three PFI members to appear before the ED in Delhi, Justice Anu Malhotra said that if there were any restrictions on the persons travelling to the national capital on account of the pandemic, the central agency would conduct the interrogation at its zonal office in Kerala.
"Court cannot direct manner and mode of investigation. That is not the job of the court. At the moment, there is no restriction (on travel)," the Court said.
"In the event of there being any travel restrictions from Kerala to Delhi, the respondent (ED) is directed to conduct interrogation in Kerala at the zonal office," it ordered.
The Court also refused to direct the ED to place before it the reasons for carrying out search operation in the case earlier this month in Kerala.
"Currently, the same (seeking reasons) is not considered appropriate as there is no stay on the investigation," the Court stated as it noted that the PFI's petition challenging the case as well as the application seeking a stay on the investigation was pending adjudication.
On December 8, the Court had sought the ED's response on the PFI's plea challenging a money laundering case registered by the agency in 2018 following an NIA case concerning the alleged training of youngsters in Kerala for carrying out anti-national activities.
Lawyer Amit Mahajan, appearing for the ED, argued that the summoned members cannot direct the agency as to how the investigation is to be conducted.
He added that whenever a person expresses a genuine difficulty in coming to the national capital for interrogation and the same does not hamper the investigation, such concerns are considered by the agency.
Lawyer Adit Pujari, representing the PFI, stated that search operations were conducted by the agency earlier this month in Kerala and summons were issued to three members to appear in Delhi.
He sought a direction to the central agency to conduct the interrogation at its Kerala zonal office on account of concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19, as well as the fact that the members were not residents of Delhi or well-versed with the local language.
The lawyer had earlier submitted before the court that over 150 summons were received by several of its members from across the country for a "roving and fishing inquiry" in the case by the ED.
The matter will be heard next in February.
With PTI Inputs