Friday, May 13, 2022

Coal scam: SC seeks ED’s report on progress in probe of over 50 money laundering cases

The SC directed ED to apprise about the progress made by it so far in the investigation of over 50 money laundering cases arising out of coal scam

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New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to apprise about the progress made by it so far in the investigation of over 50 money laundering cases arising out of the coal block allocation scam.

The top court, meanwhile, also permitted the anti-money laundering probe agency to relieve or repatriate four senior officers, monitoring the investigation, and three investigation officers (IOs) on account of reasons such as the conclusion of tenures of services or deputation.

A bench headed by Chief Justice NV Ramana, while hearing the plea of ED seeking a nod to relieve or repatriate officers, was told by lawyer Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Common Cause’, that even after nearly 10 years, the probe agency has not been able to conclude the investigation in the money laundering aspects of the coal scam.

First, the court should ask the ED as to why the investigation has not concluded and is still going on, Bhushan said.

The bench said, that is a separate issue and why the officers should suffer on account of promotion due to this.

The lawyer said that he was not opposed to the promotion and repatriation of the officers, but the probe agency was asked about the status of the investigation.

You (ED) file an affidavit by July 15 on the status of the investigation, the bench told ED which was represented by additional solicitor general Aishwarya Bhati and lawyer Amit Anand Tiwari.

The ED, which is probing 54 money laundering cases arising out of the coal scam, said that it would be filing a comprehensive report on the status of the probe.

The top court in 2014 had quashed 214 coal blocks allocated by the Centre between 1993 and 2010 after taking note of PILs filed by lawyer M L Sharma and the NGO and had ordered a trial by a special CBI Judge.

Later on November 27, 2018, it had directed: We make it clear that no supervising officer or investigating officer should be transferred or removed without the leave of this Court.

The probe agency, time and again, has been seeking the nod of the top court if the need arises with regard to the transfer, and repatriation of officers involved with the coal scam investigations.

In a fresh plea, the ED has sought modification of the 2018 order or permission of the top court in repatriating or relieving the officers.

Modify the directions of this court dated November 27, 2018, to the extent that the embargo on transfer and relieving of officers applicable to IOs (Investigation officers) only and not to coordinating officers, supervisory officers, and Joint directors, it said.

In the alternative, the ED be permitted to relieve four supervisory officers and Joint Directors as their tenure is complete and their continuance with the agency was no longer necessary, it said.

The bench said that it was permitting the application as done in the past as well.

Earlier, the top court, on April 5, last year, had decided to appoint two judicial officers, Arun Bhardwaj and Sanjay Bansal, as special judges to conduct trials in the coal scam cases pending since 2014 here.

The two judges had replaced special judge Bharat Parashar who was holding trials in 41 coal scam cases pursued by the CBI.

(With agency inputs)

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