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‘Centre trying to weaken Opp states’: Tamil Nadu moves court on ED summons to 10 district collectors | India News

The Tamil Nadu government has moved the Madras High Court against the Enforcement Directorate (ED), opposing the agency’s recent summons to 10 district collectors in the state in connection with alleged irregularities in sand mining.

The state’s petition on behalf of the collectors, in which it alleged constitutional overreach by the ED and a deliberate attempt to harass state officials, marks an escalation in the ongoing tussle between the state machinery and central agencies.

The ED had issued the summons to 10 collectors, who are the highest authorities in their districts for sand mining, last week as part of its investigation into alleged irregularities.

In the petition, the Tamil Nadu government stated that the ED’s actions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) intruded into matters that came exclusively under state jurisdiction, notably the regulation of mines and minerals.

The state government also raised questions about the lack of ED investigations into similar offences in states governed by the BJP, and cited cases of alleged illegal mining in states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat.

Festive offer

The petition accused the ED of selectively exercising its powers in a “pick-and-choose approach”, violating the principles of federalism. The Tamil Nadu government’s challenge also brought up the nature of the ED’s investigation, describing it as a “fishing and roving enquiry”. The state said the district collectors were neither accused nor witnesses in any money laundering case.

The state requested the court to provide an interim stay on the ED’s summons and further proceedings.

“The political implications of the ED’s probe cannot be understated. Their actions are not just an overreach of their authority but also a strategic move by the BJP-led central government to weaken Opposition-ruled states. It points to a pattern of the ED initiating probes in states not governed by the BJP, while seemingly ignoring similar issues in BJP-ruled states,” a senior legal counsel of the state said.

While the state’s ruling DMK has alleged that the ED’s probe into the mining sector itself is an attempt to stifle the party, a senior ED official said the probe was delving into serious accusations of malpractices.

“The investigation has so far probed the role of contractors and engineers of the Water Resources Department (WRD). We have uncovered potential procedural irregularities and illicit sales of mined sand, and this pointed at the complicit role of district collectors too,” the official said.

WRD minister Duraimurugan has already faced ED and I-T scrutiny in the recent past.

In September, the ED had conducted surprise checks at various sand quarry sites, with officials saying they seized CCTV data storage devices, computer hard disks and documents related to sand mining and trading.

At the centre of this probe are some high-profile mining contractors, besides individuals who are involved in auditing the alleged illegal money and coordinating operations with government officials and politicians, ED officials said.

“The accused are all engaged in mining as well as selling mining licences for several years,” an ED official said.

However, the official said the probe was focusing only on illegalities and alleged money laundering in the past two years, since the DMK government came to power.

A senior DMK leader said: “If their aim is to put an end to the so-called illegal activities and money trails, why don’t they probe deals that have happened in the last 10 years?”

Two top sources attached to the ED who visited several mining sites in the past two months — a senior ED official and one of the legal counsel — said the agency’s probe is specifically looking at alleged money laundering as they recovered receipts that indicate revenue losses to both the central and state governments.

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