‘The political parties and outfits in power, in opposition ought to know that just as Defence Forces, Police and the Judiciary, it is important that these institutions do not betray public trust and confidence.’
While directing the Reserve Bank of India to consider the compounding applications filed by New Delhi Television (NDTV), the Bombay High Court observed that those in power and opposition should not act in a manner which gives the public at large an impression that vital institutions like RBI and Enforcement Directorate (ED) are but puppets in the hands of politicians.
NDTV, faced with adjudication proceedings initiated by the Enforcement Directorate for alleged FEMA contraventions, took a decision to seek compounding. Compounding applications were filed before the RBI which were returned. A writ petition was filed challenging this action of the RBI and Enforcement Directorate which proceeded with adjudication proceedings. The court disposing the writ petition observed that compounding proceedings pending before the RBI should proceed, but strictly in accordance with law.
A bench of Justice SC Dharmadhikari and Justice Bharati H Dangre made this observation while dealing with the arguments of Senior Advocate Janak Dwarkadas, who appeared for NDTV and submitted that the statutory position and status of the authorities and high functionaries like the RBI, Enforcement Directorate and the CBI were being undermined and compromised.
Though disagreeing with the senior counsel, the court observed that it is extremely distressing to note that parties like NDTV doubt the independence and impartiality of the institutions. The bench said: “None should entertain this belief or voice it before a court of law for if that is noted in the proceedings, the very credibility and efficacy of such institutions/authorities is than questioned. It is extremely unfortunate that we have to take note of such submissions of the learned senior counsel. We feel that beyond noting these arguments, we should not express any opinion thereon. However, we hope that all concerned understand our pain and anguish.”
Important that these institutions do not betray public trust and confidence
The bench further observed: “Those in-charge of their affairs and those in power giving them directions ought to realise that nothing would be achieved if foundations and base of these institutions is shaken and if they allegedly obey every command of the political masters. The political parties and outfits in power, in opposition ought to know that just as Defence Forces, Police and the Judiciary, it is important that these institutions do not betray public trust and confidence. By its very name, it is the Directorate of Enforcement and it enforces stringent laws like the FEMA and the PMLA. Such institutions are the custodians of our foreign exchange resources, they safeguard and protect them by properly managing and administering them. They ensure that there is balance, much less in payment.”
The bench concluded its 122-page judgment like this: “These institutions protect our constitutional framework. Every law, which is made and the authority therefrom is but a product of our constitution and the entries in the fields of legislation (Schedule 7 Lists I, II and III) have given us the CBI, the RBI and the Enforcement Directorate together with an independent and impartial judiciary, free-press. The agencies like RBI etc. are also pillars of our democracy. The earlier we realise that in their meaningful existence lies our safety and of our legal rights the better it would be. We pray that hereinafter we do not have to observe anything like this and everybody will leave out these institutions from unnecessary attacks, uncalled for criticism and do not try to overpower or overreach them.”