Wednesday, October 5, 2022

Raids and summons raj

Even as the overworked and much criticized Enforcement Directorate (ED) sleuths continues to pursue their task with renewed determination, the opposition across India as well as neutral observers are rightly concerned that economic offences do not seem to be the goal for justice but use of central probe agencies to target political opponents. A few days before Nitish, who again backstabbed BJP and was to be re-sworn as chief minister, a popular newspaper had a cartoon showing supposedly ED Sleuths scurrying to get to Bihar as there was urgent work to be done. That work became expectedly clear when the ED began raids on RJD leaders as well as issuing summons on the leaders of the JDU-RJD-Congress etc. alliance. The drama over the Delhi Liquor Scam continues as the ED has not actually succeeded in getting what it wanted from Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia. He has now alleged that a BJP leader had promised cash and chief ministership if he jumps ship. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has countered by alleging that BJP leaders offered Rs.20 crore to each of the 40 AAP legislators to defect. Perhaps the AAP should have asked the ED to probe the allegations in order to unearth the facts. Today the ED is like a hound of the ruling party and ready to pounce on any matter involving opposition politicians. Unfortunately, the sins of the opposition leaders under ED scanner are washed clean when they join the BJP. Never in its history has India ever seen the central probe agencies being used to the extent of politically destabilizing opposition ruled states. Besides Sisodia and Bihar deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav (RJD) who are under ED scanner, others who are in custody include NCP legislators Nawab Malik and Anil Deshmukh. The Gandhis- Sonia and her son Rahul- are also among leaders who may be placed in custody. The other notable opposition politicians already in the ED’s dock include – Congress leaders like P. Chidambaram and D.K. Shivakumar; Nationalist Congress Party leaders, Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav. On the other hand, high profile politicians like TMC leader Mukul Royand former Congress leader Himanta Biswa Sarma under ED scanner in the Saradha Chit Fund scam were left off the hook after they joined BJP. Andhra Pradesh chief minister Jagan Mohan Reddy was charge sheeted in a money laundering case but so far ED has not pursued it. BJP leaders such as Yeddyurappa, Narayan Rane, MP chief minister Shivraj Chouhan, former Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, former TMC leader Suvendu Adhikari and several Shiv Sena rebel MLAs and MPs etc are off the hook for the time being. Of course, merely being questioned or even placed under ED custody does not mean one is convicted unless the charges are proved beyond doubt in a court of law. However, the feeling gaining ground is that central probe agencies are becoming political tools to settle scores or unseat political governments does not serve the interest of justice. Perhaps the only way is for a constitutional amendment where the Supreme Court and ECI take the call before ED goes after those allegedly involved in economic offences. The problem however is that political parties once in power are not keen to relinquish hold over these agencies.