The Delhi High Court refused to quash summons issued by Enforcement Directorate (ED) to West Bengal Law Minister Moloy Ghatak in connection with the coal smuggling case.

Noting that, "it is rather surprising that the petitioner himself has not appeared before the Directorate of Enforcement on eleven occasions out of twelve to give information that they are seeking. In such circumstances, when he himself has not appeared before Directorate of Enforcement except once, such relief cannot even be considered by this Court, at this stage.", the bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma refused to grant relief to the Minister.

Senior Advocate Vikas Pahwa, among others, appeared for the petitioner, while ASG SV Raju, among others, appeared for the Directorate of Enforcement.

In this case, the case of the prosecution was based on the registration of an FIR by the CBI. The charges involved illegal excavation and theft of coal from the leasehold area of Eastern Coalfield Ltd. (ECL), with accusations against several accused individuals, including Anup Majee, Amit Kumar Dhar, Jayesh Chandra Rai, Tamnay Das, Dhananjay Rai, Debashish Mukherjee, and others.

The petitioner, Moloy Ghatak, was summoned for examination during the investigation. The petitioner alleged that the summons were issued in a mala-fide manner to harass him, violating Cr.P.C., PMLA, and constitutional principles. Despite expressing a willingness to cooperate, the petitioner claimed that the Directorate of Enforcement acted arbitrarily by summoning him to New Delhi instead of conducting the inquiry at their Kolkata Zonal Office. The petitioner, a 67-year-old permanent resident of Asansol, West Bengal, and a Member of the West Bengal Legislative Assembly, feared coercion and intimidation if forced to appear in New Delhi.

The High Court observed that, "The investigation in the present ECIR is still continuing and the petitioner has only been summoned to appear and submit certain documents. Even otherwise, this Court has taken note of the order dated 10.05.2023 wherein the learned ASG had fairly submitted that the respondent will not take any action in respect of summons which have already been issued to the petitioner herein i.e. the nine summons issued to the petitioner till 21.03.2023, out of which the petitioner had appeared and got his statement recorded on one occasion." Thus, the Court found no ground to quash the summons under the PMLA.

The Court also noted that the petitioner was himself not aware as to whether he was being summoned under Section 50 of the PMLA as an accused or as a witness. Therefore, the Court held that the prayer for quashing of the ECIR was premature and without any merit and in that vein, it was said that, "Since this Court is of the opinion that the petitioner‘s prayer for quashing of ECIR itself is premature as the status of the petitioner herein is not yet identified in the ECIR, thus, the contentions regarding cause of action in this case having arisen in State of West Bengal and prosecution complaints in ECIR being filed in New Delhi being illegal and without any jurisdiction, cannot be dealt with at this stage."

Further, the Court held that there were no grounds for directing the respondent to not take any coercive steps against the petitioner.

Subsequently, the petitions were disposed.

Cause Title: Moloy Ghatak vs Directorate of Enforcement

Click here to read/download the Judgment