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Gold Smuggling Case: State Moves Kerala High Court Challenging Single Judge Order Quashing FIR Against ED

Hannah M Varghese
8 July 2021 6:30 AM GMT
Gold Smuggling Case: State Moves Kerala High Court Challenging Single Judge Order Quashing FIR Against ED
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The Kerala government on Wednesday approached the High Court against its Single Bench order quashing the FIRs filed by the State Police against Enforcement Directorate officials. The FIRs were lodged for allegedly forcing the prime accused in the gold smuggling case to implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the matter. The appeal is preferred against the order dated 16th April...

The Kerala government on Wednesday approached the High Court against its Single Bench order quashing the FIRs filed by the State Police against Enforcement Directorate officials. The FIRs were lodged for allegedly forcing the prime accused in the gold smuggling case to implicate Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in the matter.

The appeal is preferred against the order dated 16th April which allowed the two pleas filed by respondent P Radhakrishnan, the Deputy Director of ED (Kochi Zone). The Single Bench quashed the FIRs on the ground that one of the accused had already moved the Special PMLA Court alleging fabrication of evidence by ED officials. 

Through the petitions, the respondent had challenged two FIRs registered against ED officials. The FIRs were filed on the basis of an audio clip by accused Swapna Suresh, alleging that she was pressurized to implicate the Chief Minister in the case. A similar contention was raised in a letter allegedly written by the co-accused Sandeep Nair.

Accordingly, the State preferred an appeal contending that the court should see through the smokescreen attempted to be created. It was asserted that the the allegations were levelled against people in charge of investigation of the case under PMLA, and that such matters should be treated as a separate category. Senior Government Pleader V Manu appeared for the State.

The Single Judge had justified its order citing that the offences alleged were in relation to judicial proceedings. However, the appellant submitted that the Court was not restricted from taking cognizance of a matter where the allegations are regrading acts done during the course of investigation. 

"...that the real issue was the authority, or rather the duty, of Police to register a crime when the commission of cognizable offences was brought to its notice; that, the petitioner and other officials under PMLA had compelled and coerced the accused to give statements implicating highly placed personalities in the State Government, which was a heinous offence that needed to be unearthed and the culprits had to be brought to book," the appeal read.

The writ appeal also submitted that Section 195 (1)(b)(i) CrPC did not impose a legal bar on the statutory power of the police to investigate into such offences. Additionally, it was pointed out that given the facts and circumstances of the case, there was every chance that the commission of offences mentioned in FlRs would never reach the Special Court during the course of the trial.

Moreover, the State alleged that the Single Bench proceeded to decide the matter without considering the substantial allegation in the FIR, which was that the ED officials threatened the accused to give false evidence. 

"The learned single judge ought to have taken note of the fact that it was the State Crime Branch which was best placed to verify and prove whether such falsification had taken place, through what means and for what purpose," the plea said.

The ED had alleged that one of the FIRs was registered against its unnamed officials with an "ulterior motive of derailing the statutory investigation" under PMLA.

Background:

Swapna Suresh is a former employee of the UAE consulate at Thiruvananthapuram, and is the prime accused in the gold smuggling case where gold worth Rs 14.82 crore was smuggled in diplomatic baggage. She is currently under judicial custody since her arrest.

However, a few months ago, a voice clip purported circulated earlier this year alleged that some ED officials had threatened the prime accused during the interrogation to give statements against the Chief Minister and some ministers.

Later, two women civil police officers, who were with Swapna Suresh when she was questioned by the ED, also reportedly claimed they had heard the ED officials forcing her to name the Chief Minister.

On this ground, the Crime Branch registered FIR against the ED officials contending that while questioning Swapna Suresh on 12th and 13th August 2020, they forced her to give false statements against the Chief Minister to ''fabricate evidence.''

Accordingly, a case was registered under several provisions of IPC against the ED. This was challenged before the Single Bench of the High Court by the respondent.

Case Title: State of Kerala & Ors v. P. Radhakrishnan & Ors.

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