Politics over ED raids

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In recent times, there has been much politics being played in the country over the raids conducted by Enforcement Directorate or ED. It has become now a familiar word to every household. Some ten to fifteen years ago, ED was not known to people. Today’s it has become a common word. Two meanings can be interpreted from it. The opponents of the ED can say that Modi government is targeting opposition parties especially Congress with the use of this weapon of central agency. The pro ED can say that earlier Congress was reluctant to use ED to contain public corruption because it was interested in keeping corruption intact. It is like a glass containing water half of the height. Modi government itself has informed in parliament how ED raids have been increased in last eight years since the establishment of Modi government. Amid the Opposition’s allegation that government agencies such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are being misused, the Centre has told the Rajya Sabha that raids carried out by the ED during 2014-2022 saw a nearly twenty seven-fold increase as compared to the searches conducted between two thousand four and two thousand fourteen, when the Congress-led UPA was in power. The ruling NDA has attributed the surge to its ‘commitment to prevent money laundering’ and ‘improved systems for gathering financial intelligence as well as better inter-agency cooperation.’ It is commendable that the Centre’s twin purposes — disposing of pending investigation in old cases and completing the probe in new cases in a time-bound manner under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) — have led to three thousand and ten searches in the past eight years, resulting in the attachment of proceeds of crime to the tune of about Rs ninety thousand and three fifty six croers  and the filing of prosecution complaints in 888 cases. What’s worrying is the poor rate of conviction. Only twenty three accused persons/entities have been convicted during this period, clearly pointing to investigative lapses and legal loopholes. The number of culprits reaching to their logical conclusion is very less which is the main reason for suspicion on ED’s role in digging out corruption from public life. The ED’s failure to build airtight cases in most instances gives room to allegations of ulterior motive and settling of spolitical scores. It can’t be mere coincidence that these searches are largely confined to non-BJP-ruled states. In Maharashtra, Shivsena has been successful to establish equation that ED raids are conducted to terrorize opposition leaders which suspicion further is strengthened by the fact that no BJP people’s representative has not trapped by ED. The ED also owes an explanation for going slow in the Kerala gold smuggling case, which came to light in July 2020. It’s only now that the agency has approached the Supreme Court to seek transfer of the case to Karnataka; the long delay gave rise to speculation that political convenience prompted the Centre to spare the Congress’ arch-rival in Kerala. With the apex court backing the ED’s powers under the PMLA and upholding the constitutional validity of provisions dealing with the arrest and attachment of property of persons involved in money laundering, it has become even more important for the premier financial probe agency to ensure that its credibility is not undermined. The directorate’s functioning must be above board and the notion that it adopts a pick-and-choose approach should be firmly dispelled by letting it act freely and fairly. If ED’s motive is pure, it should behave in a nondiscriminatory manner. Then only the suspicion in the minds of people can be erased out.