Opposition parties are accusing the investigating agencies of misusing their power, but the ED’s figures are presenting a different picture. (Article by Kavita Pant)
this is the story
amid allegations that Enforcement Directorate (ed) especially opposition parties is targeting the politicians of the central investigation agency Has said that only 2.98 percent of its total complaints are against sitting or former MPs and MLAs. Such cases are known as Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR).
In the recently released data, ED has said that it takes action under three laws. These are Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and Fugitive Economic Offenders Act (FEOA).
The agency also revealed that it has achieved an impressive 96 percent conviction rate under the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
Some critics allege that the agency is being used by the ruling BJP to harass and intimidate its opponents. The allegation is based on the fact that members of opposition parties are involved in several high-profile cases probed by the ED.
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Apart from this, critics also raise questions about the timing of the action. There have been instances where such actions of the ED have raised suspicions, such as taking action against an opposition politician during election periods. Some opposition leaders have also accused the ED of being selective in its investigation and ignoring corruption charges against ruling party politicians.
please explain more
As per ED data, the number of ECIRs registered till January 31, 2023 was 5906, out of which searches were conducted in 531 cases and 4954 search warrants were issued. The data also shows that 176 ECIRs were registered against sitting and former MPs, MLAs and MLCs.
Explain that ED is an independent agency that works under the Ministry of Finance and is responsible for enforcing economic laws and fighting financial crimes. The agency has said that its investigation is based on credible evidence and does not target individuals on the basis of their political affiliation.
Why is this so important?
In 2019, the central government issued a notification and made changes to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), giving the ED special powers in money laundering cases. The agency is probing several high-profile individuals, such as chief ministers, prominent politicians, top bureaucrats, corporate entities, foreign nationals and other groups, under the Anti-Money Laundering Act.
Prior to the amendment by the UPA government, money laundering cases were pursued only if the amount laundered was Rs 30 lakh or more. As a result, only 165 cases of money laundering were registered till 2012. However, in the amendment made in 2013, the limit of Rs 30 lakh was abolished. And any amount came under scrutiny.
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The most significant change in the PMLA Act happened in 2019, which gave tremendous power to the ED. While the UPA expanded the reach of the PMLA, the Modi government tightened it.
In this amendment, Section 45 was added to the Act, giving ED officers the right to arrest a person without a warrant. The scope of property created out of illegal money has also been expanded. If the ED feels that “any property has been created directly or indirectly out of illegally acquired money.” So he was given the right to take action.
In December 2022, while answering a question of the Lok Sabha, the Central Government had said that they do not have any data that tells the number of cases filed against MPs and MLAs. The government also emphasized that no distinction has been made between cases involving politicians and regular cases. It was said that ‘we do not look at the affairs of common people and politicians differently’.
Last year, the finance ministry had said in a reply in the Lok Sabha that between 2004 and 2014, the ED conducted 112 raids and seized assets worth Rs 5,346 crore. However, during the eight years of BJP rule from 2014 to 2022, ED conducted 3010 raids and attached assets worth about one lakh crore.
Last year, an Indian Express report had revealed that there has been a four-fold increase in ED investigations against political personalities during the last eight years. Of the 121 big leaders being probed by the ED, 115 belong to opposition parties. In comparison, during the ten years of the UPA from 2004 to 2014, the ED probed 26 leaders, of whom 14 were from opposition parties.
Enforcement Directorate has named 51 present and former members of parliament under PMLA. This information was given to the Supreme Court on November 2022 in response to the case of Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay vs Union of India. Additionally, 71 sitting and former legislators have also been charged with PMLA offences, but the report did not specify how many of them are still in office.
What is PMLA?
The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is a criminal law enacted by the Parliament in 2002 to prevent money laundering and related activities. It came into force on July 1, 2005.
The PMLA prevents and punishes money laundering by providing for setting up of special courts to deal with such cases. It is implemented by ED. This law was brought in keeping with India’s commitment to the Vienna Convention to combat money laundering.
twist in the story
As the 2024 Lok Sabha elections approach, the opposition parties are repeatedly accusing the central agencies of misusing their power. ED has raided the Delhi residence of Bihar Deputy Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav in the land-for-job case.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s daughter K. There is also speculation about ED’s summons to Kavita, Kavita has said that questioning by any investigative agency is equivalent to questioning by the Prime Minister. Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia was recently arrested by the ED in the same case and is now in jail while the Central Bureau of Investigation is probing the matter.
In addition, eight opposition parties have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressing their concern about the alleged misuse of central investigative agencies against Sisodia after his arrest.
Amid these raids and interrogations, the opposition is claiming that opposition leaders are being targeted as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to match former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s record of being the only leader to win a third straight term. And his party wants to win the 2024 general elections with a huge margin.
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author. The views and facts given in this article do not represent the stand of News9.)