SC raps Tamil Nadu, asks five DCs to appear before ED in illegal sand mining probe

A bench of justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal termed the plea of TN and its officials against the ED summons as "strange and unusual".

BySouth First Desk

Published Feb 27, 2024 | 7:15 PMUpdatedFeb 27, 2024 | 7:15 PM

Supreme Court of India

The Supreme Court on Tuesday, 27 February, directed five district collectors of Tamil Nadu to appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with an ongoing money laundering probe pertaining to alleged illegal sand mining.

A bench of justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal termed the plea of Tamil Nadu and its officials against the ED summons as “strange and unusual” and stayed the Madras High Court order granting the relief to the five district collectors.

“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 said in its order.

Also Read: SC questions TN for filing plea in Madras HC challenging ED summons to officials

Earlier hearing

Earlier, the bench said the state machinery should help the ED in finding out if an offence has been committed as there is no harm in it.

The central probe 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. The officers were summoned as witnesses, the ED had said.

The state government along with the bureaucrats had moved the high court that stayed the summons issued by the ED. The probe agency has moved the top court against the high court order.

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

Also Read: TN challenges ED summons to collectors over sand mining probe in Madras HC

Questioned state govt

The apex court had questioned the Tamil Nadu government for filing a plea in the Madras High Court against the ED for its probe in the case.

“How can the state file this writ petition? Under which law? You satisfy us on how the state is interested and how it can file this writ petition against the Enforcement Directorate. How is the state aggrieved,” a bench comprising justices Bela M Trivedi and Pankaj Mithal asked the counsel appearing for the Tamil Nadu government.

Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for the state government, said that Tamil Nadu is bound to protect its officials from “illegal” probe of the agency.

The high court, while staying the summons, had said that the ED was venturing into a fishing expedition to find out whether information and evidence collected from the district administration could be processed further from other sources to find out the commission of the scheduled offences.

Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the probe agency, told the court that the district collectors are not among the accused and were summoned only as witnesses.

(With PTI inputs)