The Supreme Court reprimanded the District Collectors from various districts of the State of Tamil Nadu who failed to appear in person before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) after the Supreme Court directed the collectors to appear before the ED.

Today, the matter was listed before Justice Bela Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal, the Court ordered, “In our opinion, such a cavalier approach, will land them in a difficult situation. When the Court had passed the order directing them to appear in response to the summons issued by the ED, they were expected to obey the same order and remain present before the ED…This shows that the officers do not have either respect for the Court or the law much less the Constitution of India. Such an approach is strongly deprecated. However, having regard to the fact that elections are in offing, and the statement of Learned Counsel Sibal that they are collecting the data from the concerned departments, we give them one more chance to appear before the ED in response to the summons issued by the ED under Section 50 of PMLA. The ED is directed to indicate another date, preferably in the last week of April”.

Justice Bela Trivedi said, “We are not happy with the approach of the officers. They have not respected the order of the Court.”

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal, on behalf of the Collectors, submitted, “They do not have the data…It is the middle of the elections…there is law and order, for every collector to appear…that is why we have said that we will collect the data and give it to Your Lordships...”

The Bench, “This kind of attitude may land them in trouble...”

Senior Advocate Sibal also referred to the Additional Affidavit filed by the Respondents.

Justice Trivedi, “They should have appeared in person, THEY SHALL HAVE TO APPEAR, THIS IS JUST NOT DONE.”

Sibal submitted, “They don’t have the data, what is the point?”

To which Justice Trivedi replied, “Mr. Sibal they should have respected the Court’s Order, appear in person and then state whatever they wanted.”

Advocate Zoheb Hossain appeared for the ED, he submitted “Please see the next page, it is even more egregious. Two things they say, that, they have nothing to do with the predicate offence, they are rearguing in the letter…and filed the review petition.”

Senior Advocate Sibal submitted that the Collectors are engaged in election duties which might be disrupted and that they do not have the data ED is asking for.

On the previous date of the hearing, the Supreme Court had stayed the Madras High Court's interim stay order on the operation and execution of the summonses issued by the ED and had observed in its order that the Writ Petition filed by the State of Tamil Nadu before the Madras High Court challenging the Summons is prima facie misconceived.

In the present Special Leave Petition filed by the ED against the order of stay by the High Court of summonses issued by the ED, the Apex Court had directed the District Collectors to appear and respond to the summonses issued by the ED.

The Madras High Court had in November 2023 granted an interim stay on the summonses issued by the ED to the District Collectors in Tamil Nadu. Therefore, aggrieved, ED approached the Apex Court challenging the order of the High Court.

The Bench, consequently, gave the last opportunity to the Collectors to appear before the ED in response to the summons issued on April 26, 2024. "The collectors shall remain personally present before the ED and respond to the summons, failing which a strict view will be taken", the Bench ordered.

The matter is now listed for May 6, 2024.

Cause Title: Directorate of Enforcement vs. The State of Tamil Nadu and Ors. (SLP (Crl.) No(s).1959-1963/2024)