SC sets 5 April date to hear plea against misuse of CBI, ED filed by DMK, BRS and 12 Opposition parties

The parties are seeking guidelines governing the arrest, remand, and bail of persons in offences not involving serious bodily harm.

BySouth First Desk

Published Apr 03, 2023 | 6:05 PMUpdatedApr 03, 2023 | 6:05 PM

The petition has been listed for hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala. (Creative Commons)

The Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday, 5 April, a joint plea by 14 Opposition parties against the alleged use of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to target their leaders.

The parties are seeking guidelines governing the arrest, remand, and bail of persons in offences not involving serious bodily harm.

The petition by the DMK, BRS and 12 other Opposition political parties is listed for hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala.

Apart from the DMK of Tamil Nadu and BRS of Telangana, the 12 other parties are: The Congress, CPI(M), CPI, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Trinamool Congress (TMC), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray), Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM), Janata Dal (U), Samajwadi Party, and J&K National Conference.

Also Read: People laugh when ED, CBI issue notices these days, says BRS

Need for guidelines

A day after the filing of the joint petition, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi had, on 24 March, mentioned it for an urgent hearing.

Singhvi in his mentioning had told the bench that since 2014 (the advent of BJP-led NDA government), of all the politicians investigated by the CBI and the ED, over 95 percent belong to Opposition parties.

“I am asking for the guidelines for the future. This is a remarkable convergence of 14 parties against the misuse of the agencies, both CBI and ED,” Singhvi told the bench in the mentioning.

The joint petition by 14 political parties has said that the guidelines should fulfil and realise the guarantee of personal liberty entrenched in Article 21 of the Constitution, for all citizens, including those targeted for exercising their right to political dissent and for performing their duties as the political opposition.

Also Read: BRS MLC K Kavitha says ED sabotaging duty of free and fair probe

The numbers tell a story

“Between 2004-14, (during the term of the UPA government) of the 72 political leaders investigated by the CBI, 43 (under 60 percent) were from the Opposition of the time. Now, (under the term of the NDA government) this same figure has risen to over 95 percent. The same pattern is reflected in the ED’s investigations as well, with the proportion of Opposition leaders from the total number of politicians investigated rising from 54 percent (before 2014) to 95 percent (after 2014),” said the petition.

The petitioner parties have said that ED raids were being used as “tool of harassment” of political opponents, pointing out that of all the raids targeting the politicians belonging to Opposition parties have resulted in the filing of complainers in 23 percent cases.

In contrast, the petition says that between 2005 to 2014 of all the raids by the ED involving politicians, 93 percent resulted in the filing of complaints. An obvious inference is that most of the raids from 2014 till date are to intimidate and target politicians belonging to the Opposition parties.

The petitioner have pointed out that though the number of cases registered by the ED under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act have risen exponentially — from 209 in 2013-14 to 981 in 2020-21, and 1,180 in 2021-22 — only 23 resulted in convictions.

Giving their grassroot presence amongst the people, the petition states that these 14 political parties together polled 45.19 percent of the votes cast in the last state/UT Assembly elections, and 42.5 percent of the votes cast in the 2019 general elections, and are holding power in 11 states/UTs.

Also Read: Centre misusing agencies against political rivals: Pinarayi Vijayan

Do the triple test!

On the question of arrest and sending an accused to the remand of the investigating agencies, the petitioner parties have said that it should be incumbent on the CBI, ED, and the court as well.

The triple test — whether the accused is a flight risk, can tamper with evidence, and can influence/intimidate the witnesses — has to be satisfied. In case a triple test is not satisfied, the alternatives like interrogation at fixed hours, or at most house arrest, be used to meet the demands of investigation.

As far as bail is concerned, the petitioner parties have said that the principle of “bail as rule, jail as exception” be followed by all courts throughout, especially in cases where non-violent offences are alleged, and that bail be denied only where the triple-test is met.