District Collectors in Tamil Nadu cannot be ‘Unnecessarily Harassed’, SC tells ED

The Supreme Court on Monday remarked that the District Collectors in Tamil Nadu cannot be unnecessarily “harassed” by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the illegal sand mining case.

A bench, headed by Justice Bela M. Trivedi, was apprised by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing the state government, that District Collectors, who appeared at the ED office in Chennai pursuant to the apex court’s order, were made to sit from morning till late in the evening.

Deprecating the central agency’s conduct, the Bench, also comprising Justice Pankaj Mithal, said: “You cannot do that…Do not harass them unnecessarily.”

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for the ED alleged that the district collectors did not furnish the desired information sought in the summons. However, the submission met opposition from the state government.

Posting the matter for hearing after summer vacations, the apex court asked ED to file an affidavit describing the documents or information not supplied by the District Collectors.

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In an earlier hearing, the top court had castigated the District Collectors for not appearing before the federal investigative agency despite its directions to appear and respond to the summons. It had said that, in its prima facie view, a person is obliged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act to respect and respond to the summons issued by the ED.

“You are bound to respond to the summons. Let them (District Collectors) appear,” the apex court told the state government as it stayed the interim orders passed by the Madras High Court which had paused the operation of the summons issued to the District Collectors.

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