Enforcement Directorate, PMLA
On 3 July during speaker elections, when rebel MLA Yamini Yashwant Jadhav was casting her vote, the house echoed with slogan of ED, ED!
Enforcement Directorate has established its position in the house.
Devendra Fadnavis handled the matter and admitted in front of everyone, “Yes, this is ED-run government” – ED meaning Eknath Devendra. What a presence of mind by him! (slow claps)
But what about the other ED i.e. the Enforcement Directorate? What was its role in power change? How has ED become more powerful than CBI today? Why is the opposition saying that ED is being misused? How has the Congress curated and the BJP upgraded the Enforcement Directorate?
Last year, Nawab Malik made to the headlines for taking head on NCB officer Sameer Wankhede after Aryan Khan’s arrest. He controlled the narrative on mainstream media as well. Finally, Aryan Khan got clean chit from the court.
But later on, Enforcement Directorate arrested Nawab Malik in a money laundering case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)– for transaction done 22 years ago. This is not all, there is more. Maharashtra politics grabbed all the attention last month as power passed on to Eknath Shinde. But what was going on in the background?
Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Raut wrote to Rajya Sabha chairman in Feb accusing ED. Furthermore, threat to jail other leaders under PMLA was made. 28 people are so far picked up by ED and wrongfully confined, Raut wrote in Feb, to be used against him. ED attached properties of Sanjay Raut’s wife after the letter was out in the open.
Raut wrote that all this was done to overthrow the Uddhav Thackeray government. And in June, the same happened. How many were sold for money and how many out of fear of ED? Time will unveil!
What is PMLA?
Prevention of Money Laundering Act, PMLA was made to fight illegal trade, to stop illegal money from entering circulation, to seize assets bought by illegal money. The logic behind it is that if value of money and assets earned from illegal acts is destroyed, the illegal activities will discontinue too.
To fight crime, the law has to be tough. And this is a very strict system of 6 laws that lists 40 offences under it. 6 laws such as – drug trafficking, illegal arms, prostitution, illegal wildlife trade, corruption, waging war against the state – strict action on heinous activities. But slowly the system was taken over by politics. Made on the basis of UN mandate, the PMLA became a tool in the hands of politicians to be used against politicians.
Let’s understand the dynamics of PMLA in terms of ‘bulldozer’ (which surely everybody is aware of). Congress made the bulldozer of PMLA to set right its political opponents. P Chidambaram once faced the wrath of it. But, when BJP obtained control of this PMLA bulldozer, they updated it and boosted its speed.
The law was made stricter in 2019 by broadening its reach, and making it applicable retrospectively. So if you did something in 1947 then you come under its purview too.
That amendment was a masterstroke, passed as money bill that need only to be introduced in Lok Sabha. 112 searches by ED were made in Congress term (2004-2014). This number is 2974 in just 8 years under BJP. Prosecution complaint is also 8 times higher. In 2004-2014, 104 cases reached the court. From 2014 till date, 839 cases are in the court.
You will say it’s good, won’t you? More searches leading to more prosecution! But, whether or not law is being used rightfully is judged by conviction rate. How many of them were guilty? In 17 years of the PMLA, only 23 convictions were filed by ED. So, what are the thousands of ongoing cases motivated by? Could it be politically driven?
An article on Scroll.in discussed this in detail whether or not ED has been weaponised to go after the opposition. Fact is that if you are in any opposition party then a case may get registered against you automatically under the money laundering law. Scroll.in article also mentioned that when these politicians (opposition) are locked in high stakes battle with the BJP, chances of ED raid increase.
Hence, NCP, Shiv Sena, INC, CPM etc. have all been raided for the sole reason of being the opposition parties. When I look at this list, I realize that all thieves and corrupt are in the opposition. Good ones are only in the ruling part! (ahm)
Let’s take an example of Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. In a letter to CBI, the Saradha group founder Sudipta Sen wrote he had bribed Sarma. ED charge sheeted several TMC leaders on the basis of that letter, but never even summoned the Chief Minister of Assam. Sarma’s wife, Riniki Bhuyan was investigated months before Himanta Biswa Sarma left Congress and joined BJP, but never after that.
ED reached office of Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot’s brother Agrasen Gehlot and raided Punjab CM Channi’s relative right before Punjab election. In short, opposition leaders are corrupt, and ruling party members clean as a whistle.
How Congress weaponised ED?
Opposition may play their victim card now, but Congress was the one to weaponise ED. From 2009-2012, 140 offence brought were under 30 laws by amendments. In fact, even copyright violation also put under the scope of money laundering charge. You could be jailed without bail. Political usage of ED began during the P Chidambaram era as per Indian Express. ED, which was working in the background, started grabbing headlines since then.
Madhu Koda case, 2G scam, Aircel Maxis case, CWG, Sahara case, Bellary mining case in which BJP’s Reddy brothers were involved, Jagan Mohan Reddy Case and Baba Ramdev Case – what happened to these cases after 2014?
But, destiny played its role – P Chidambaram made full use of ED and PMLA in his tenure, and then in a turnaround spent 106 days in jail in 2019, for an offence that was added during his own tenure.
How BJP empowered ED?
Better than Congress, BJP took PMLA and ED to the next level. In 2019, changes in PMLA Act empowered ED. Now retrospectively, cases can be opened, doesn’t matter if it’s of 5, 10, 50, or 100 years ago. Soon, even Nehru will be raided, it seems!
Earlier, charge sheet was required for search and seizure. After 2009, in Congress term, only FIR was required. Now, after 2019, no paperwork is necessary. So easy it is to be prosecuted now, isn’t it? (sigh)
Is PMLA Constitutional?
One thing is clear, both Congress and BJP have misused PMLA when in power. Now, PMLA is under challenge in the Supreme Court as its reach has expanded far and wide, but provisions aren’t evolved. The Supreme Court will decide the extent of the powers of ED. What will be its impact on democracy?
Today, ED can summon without disclosing anything. The PMLA law allows self-incrimination; generally, that is not the case, but especially under PMLA the statements made in front of the police can be used in the court.
There is no magisterial oversight on ED. You may not know what are the charges against you for many days. Bail provisions under PMLA are arguably more stringent than UAPA, as held even by the Supreme Court. The judge can grant the bail if he/she is assured of innocence of accused (without trial).
Finally, ED can attach properties before charges are filed. It will happen by virtue of sealed envelope and every asset will freeze – house, bank balance, etc.
So, won’t this law set politicians straight? It is definitely a masterstroke. But it might not be good for democracy. Now, the Supreme Court will decide its future. But it’s good to remember how political parties misuse law, and if tomorrow Congress comes to power the law again may be misused against opponents.
All politicians are power hungry so support whoever you want but keep asking questions too.
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