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In HC: ED quiz to clear doubts vs privacy worry

Court asks CPM leader why he cannot be questioned if central agency has any doubts and also if a person can be summoned by agency as a witness and not as a suspect
Thomas Isaac.
Thomas Isaac.
File picture

PTI   |   Kochi   |   Published 12.08.22, 01:12 AM

Kerala High Court on Thursday asked senior CPM leader Thomas Isaac why the Enforcement Directorate cannot question someone if it has any doubts but at the same time told the probe agency that privacy of an individual cannot be violated.

The observations by Justice V.G. Arun came during the hearing of Isaac’s plea seeking quashing of the two summons issued to him by the ED in connection with its probe into alleged violations in the financial dealings of the Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) when he was finance minister in the previous LDF government.

The court asked Isaac why he cannot be questioned if the ED has any doubts and also if a person can be summoned by the agency as a witness and not as a suspect.

Isaac’s lawyer told the court that the only doubt the ED has is whether he should be questioned and added that the CPM leader was being treated as a suspect.

The lawyer said the ED had not clarified in its summons what was the violation committed by the leader and in one of the notices it had asked him about his personal matters alone.

Isaac has contended that the agency has no power to question him or ask for his personal information or details just because he was a former head of the KIIFB and was its ex-officio member presently.

The court said the privacy of an individual cannot be violated and asked the ED on what basis it was asking for his personal details.

The lawyer appearing for the agency said the investigating officer had asked for documents that he felt were required for the probe and it was the prerogative of the ED to do so.

He said the ED had only issued summons and Isaac should cooperate with the probe. The lawyer asked why Isaac cannot take the investigating officer into confidence.

The court listed the matter on August 17 for further consideration.

Isaac has contended that the ED is attempting to conduct a fishing-and-roving inquiry into the activities of the KIIFB.

and such enquiries have been time and again deprecated by the apex court.

He has claimed that the summons issued to him to appear before the ED do not reveal the nature of the violation, if any, by him of the provisions of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) or what the investigation for which his response has been sought is about.

Therefore, the “summons are ex-facie illegal and beyond the jurisdiction of the scope of inquiry contemplated under FEMA since admittedly there is no violation of any provision of the said Act”, Isaac has said in his plea.

The ED had served a notice on him last month, seeking his appearance before it on July 19. Isaac did not appear before the probe agency, saying he had to attend classes at a party-run institute in the state capital.

Isaac termed the ED notice as a “political move” by the BJP government at the Centre, alleging it was misusing the investigation agencies for its gains.

The second notice seeking his appearance was sent by the ED in the first week of August.

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