Why Can't ED Question Someone If It Has Doubts: Kerala HC Asks CPI(M) Leader Thomas Isaac
The Kerala High Court today asked senior CPI(M) leader and former Minister Thomas Isaac why the Enforcement Directorate (ED) cannot question someone if it has any doubts and at the same time it told the probe agency that privacy of an individual cannot be violated.
The observations by Justice V G Arun came during the hearing of Isaac's plea seeking quashing of the two summons issued to him by the ED in connection with its probe into alleged violations in the financial dealings of Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) when he was the state Finance Minister in the previous LDF government.
During the hearing, the Court asked Isaac why he cannot be questioned if ED has any doubts and can't a person be summoned by the agency as a witness and not as a suspect.
In response to the queries, Isaac's lawyer told the Court that the only doubt ED has is whether he should be questioned and added that the CPI(M) leader was being treated as a suspect.
The lawyer said ED has not clarified in its summons what was the violation committed by Isaac and in one of the notices it has asked him about his personal matters alone.
Isaac, in his plea, has contended that the agency has no power to question him or ask for his personal information or details just because he was the former head of KIIFB and was its ex-officio member presently.
Taking note of his contentions, the court said that the privacy of an individual cannot be violated and asked the ED on what basis it was asking for his personal details.
The lawyer appearing for the agency said that the investigating officer asked for documents that he felt were required for the probe and it was the prerogative of the ED.
He also said that presently the ED has only issued summons and Isaac should cooperate with the probe. The agency's lawyer also asked why Isaac cannot take the investigating officer into confidence.
After hearing both sides, the court listed the matter on August 17 for further consideration.
In his plea, Isaac has contended that the ED was attempting to conduct a fishing and roving enquiry into the activities of KIIFB and such enquiries have been time and again deprecated by the Apex Court.
He has claimed that the summons issued to him to appear before the ED do not reveal the nature of the violation, if any, by him of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) or as to what is the investigation in relation to which his response is sought for.
Therefore, the "summons are ex-facie illegal and beyond the jurisdiction of the scope of inquiry contemplated under the FEMA since admittedly there is no violation of any provision of the said Act", Isaac has also claimed in his plea.
The plea also contains his reply dated August 9 to the latest ED summons for his presence before it on August 11.
The reply has contended that the summons issued to him should be withdrawn or recalled by the ED and it should refrain from initiating further proceedings against him in the matter.
The ED had served a notice to the former Minister leader last month, seeking his appearance before it on July 19. He, however, did not appear before the probe agency, saying he had to attend classes at a party-run institute in the state capital.
Then, Isaac had termed the ED notice to him as a 'political move' by the BJP government at the Centre, alleging it was misusing all investigation agencies for its political gains. The second notice seeking his appearance was sent by ED in the first week of August.
With PTI inputs