During the hearing of the plea filed by the Tamil Nadu District Collectors challenging summons issued to them by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the illegal sand mining case, the Supreme Court told the ED not to harass the collectors and retain them unnecessarily.

The matter was listed before Justice Bela Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal, the Court observed, “The Respondents have appeared before the ED as directed by the Court. The Learned Counsel for the Petitioner-ED submits that the requisite documents have not been produced by them. The Counsel for the Respondents submits that the documents as asked in the summons have been supplied, the Counsel for the Petitioner disputes the same. Let the compliance report be filed by the ED…let it be after vacation.”

Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal and AAG Amit Anand Tiwari appeared on behalf of the State of Tamil Nadu and submitted that the District Magistrates appeared before the ED, and they submitted whatever documents were asked for.

Per contra, Advocate Zoheb Hossain appeared on behalf of the ED and submitted, “They have appeared, but so far no details and documents have been submitted.”

Sibal submitted, “They(District Magistrates) came at 11:00 am, they(ED) made them sit till 8:30 in the evening…all Collectors. The documents asked in summons have been supplied.”

Justice Bela Trivedi said, “You can’t do that…don’t retain them unnecessarily…they are responsible for things.”

Justice Pankaj Mithal remarked, “Don’t harass them unnecessarily, they have supplied the documents.”

Previously, the Supreme Court had 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.

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, had given 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.

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