15 Sep 2023 10:38 AM GMT
Hours after summoning Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha for questioning on Friday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today informed the Supreme Court that it would be deferring for ten days the summons issued to the former Lok Sabha member in connection with the Delhi excise policy case. The central agency is currently investigating her role in influencing the now-scrapped...
Hours after summoning Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha for questioning on Friday, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) today informed the Supreme Court that it would be deferring for ten days the summons issued to the former Lok Sabha member in connection with the Delhi excise policy case. The central agency is currently investigating her role in influencing the now-scrapped liquor policy in the national capital and related bribery allegations.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a plea filed by the legislator against the summons issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) earlier this year requiring her to appear in Delhi for questioning in connection with the money laundering investigation. In March, this writ petition was tagged with a 2018 plea filed by Nalini Chidambaram, senior advocate and wife of former finance minister P Chidambaram, who approached the apex court after the Madras High Court refused to quash the ED summons against her in the Saradha chit fund scam case.
The division bench adjourned today’s hearing at Additional Solicitor-General SV Raju’s behest. However, before the matter was directed to be re-listed on Tuesday, September 26, Senior Advocate Vikram Chaudhary, appearing for Kavitha, requested the court to protect the legislator from coercive action, in the same way it had protected Nalini Chidambaram. In support of this contention, the senior counsel also pointed to the various statutory relaxations made in criminal law to benefit women, particularly under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 –
“In Nalini Chidambaram’s case, the ED made a statement that they will not insist on her appearance until Your Lordships decide the matter. And this order was continued by this court. [K Kavitha] wants this same order. Why should her case be different? In another matter dealing with the Customs Act, Your Lordships prevented any coercive action against women. Whether Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure applies to women…In fact, PMLA accentuates the position further and protects women in all capacities. The bail section, Section 45, also contains relaxations for women. So women are in a completely different category. The issue has to be resolved one way or the other. The matter may be listed for final hearing and till then, let these summons be deferred.”
Summons cannot be deferred sine die, the additional solicitor-general protested at this juncture. However, he expressed the probe agency’s willingness to defer it for ten days till the next date of hearing. ASG Raju pledged, “She has appeared twice. If she is busy, we will extend the date by another ten days. We will do that.”
The court did not record the submission that the summons would be deferred till the next date of hearing, saying that there was no reason to doubt the law officer’s oral assurance made at the Bar. The hearing concluded with a brief order directing a postponement till September 26.
The origin of the controversy is the excise policy framed by the Government of the National Capital of Delhi to boost revenue and reform liquor trade in 2021, which was later withdrawn after allegations of irregularities in implementation were made and Lieutenant-Governor Vinay Kumar Saxena ordered a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the policy. This policy – which sought to completely privatise liquor trade in the national capital – was used to grant undue advantage to private entities at the cost of the public exchequer and smacked of corruption, the Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation have claimed. The investigations are currently underway and led to the arrest of, among others, Manish Sisodia – the former deputy chief minister of Delhi and a prominent leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
In this case, the anti-money laundering agency has also issued summons to K Kavitha, a leader of the Bharat Rashtra Samithi and the daughter of Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, as a part of its wider probe into the alleged financial irregularities surrounding the now-scrapped liquor policy and the role of a purported ‘south liquor lobby’. In March, the Enforcement Directorate summoned her to appear in person in Delhi for questioning in connection with the Delhi excise policy case.
In the same month, the central agency’s summons were challenged by the BRS leader. Kavitha, presently an MLA from the Nizamabad local bodies constituency, argued that she has not been named in the first information report (FIR) and that the summons were in the teeth of Section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure which protected women from being summoned as a witness to any place other than where they reside.
Kalvakuntla Kavitha v. Directorate of Enforcement | Writ Petition (Criminal) No. 103 of 2023