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Supreme Court directs Tamil Nadu district collectors to appear before ED in sand mining scam case

The Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered five district collectors of Tamil Nadu to appear before the Enforcement Directorate in connection with an ongoing money laundering probe related to alleged illegal sand mining.

A bench comprising Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal termed the plea of Tamil Nadu and its officials against the Enforcement Directorate summons as strange and unusual. In addition, the apex court stayed the Madras High Court order granting the relief to the five district collectors.

The Supreme Court bench in its order stated that the writ petition of Tamil Nadu and others in the high court is thoroughly misconceived. Accordingly, the execution of the impugned order of the high court is stayed and thus the district collectors shall appear before the Enforcement Directorate on the next date, the bench added.

The bench added that prima facie under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the accused has to respect and respond to the summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate. It also added the accused has to appear if called by the ED and produce evidence if needed in accordance with proceedings under PMLA law.

Previously, the bench said the state machinery should help the Enforcement Directorate in finding out if an offence has been committed as there is no harm in it. The central investigation agency had summoned the district collectors of Vellore, Tiruchirappalli, Karur, Thanjavur and Ariyalur in connection with its probe in the money laundering case related to alleged illegal sand mining. 

Earlier, the Enforcement Directorate had clarified that the officers were summoned as witnesses. Subsequently, the Tamil Nadu government along with the bureaucrats had approached the Madras High Court that stayed the summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate. The investigation agency has moved the top court against the high court order.

The Enforcement Directorate’s plea came up for hearing before the top court.

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