Court Stays Kerala Order For Panel To Examine Gold Smuggling Case Probe

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The Kerala High Court today stayed the order issued by the state government appointing a Commission of Inquiry (CoI) to look into any alleged attempt by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the sensational gold smuggling case, saying a parallel inquiry would “derail the investigation” in the matter.

The Left government’s May 7 notification appointing the CoI was stayed by Justice P B Suresh Kumar on a plea by the ED, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, which had contended that the state was “incompetent” to order such an inquiry as the subject matter fell in Central list of the Seventh Schedule to the Constitution.

The high court said that in such matters if parallel inquiries are carried out, it would “impede and derail the investigation” in the case and that in turn would benefit the accused.

The Solicitor General had also told the high court that since the subject matter of the inquiry relates to probes of offences by agencies authorised and empowered to conduct such an investigation, “there cannot be any inquiry into the same by any authority other than the court under whose supervision the investigation was being conducted”.

The state government, on the other hand, claimed that the ED was only a department of the central government, and as such cannot file a writ petition for it is “not a juristic person which can sue or be sued”.

The high court rejected the contention, saying that ED was a statutory body and not just a central government department and a statutory body was entitled to file a writ petition invoking Article 226 of the Constitution.

“In other words, the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) is certainly entitled to institute a writ petition in its name,” the high court said in its interim order.

The CoI headed by a former judge of the high court was appointed to inquire into the question whether the contents of a voice clip and a letter stated to have been issued by the accused persons in the gold smuggling case, investigated by the various central agencies, would reveal any conspiracy to falsely implicate the leaders of the political front of the state, it also noted in the order.

The high court said the question of conspiracy in a case of this nature has to be examined by the Special Court supervising the investigation.

“If parallel investigations and inquiries are conducted into questions of the said nature, I am of the prima facie view that the same would impede and derail the investigation and would ultimately go to the benefit of the accused, defeating the object of the legislation under which the accused are booked.

“In the said view of the matter, I am inclined to admit the writ petition and pass an interim order as prayed for in the matter,” Justice Kumar said and stayed the May 7 notification.

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