Why resent SC ruling on ED powers?

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Has the nation really been shocked looking at the wads of currency that has been dug out from the residence of a former West Bengal Minister and his close aide by the investigating agencies? Or is it more shocked by the Supreme Court judgment upholding the powers of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in using the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)?

Has the nation really been shocked looking at the wads of currency that has been dug out from the residence of a former West Bengal Minister and his close aide by the investigating agencies? Or is it more shocked by the Supreme Court judgment upholding the powers of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in using the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)?

The Union government informed the Supreme Court recently that 4,700 cases were being investigated under the PMLA by the ED as of date, and only 313 people have been arrested for the alleged offences since the Act was passed in 2002. The total amount covered by interim orders of no coercive action passed by the courts in such matters is approximately Rs 67,000 crore, the government told a bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar, that in money laundering cases relating to Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi and Nirav Modi, the ED has confiscated around Rs 18,000 crore by the orders of the courts following due procedure.

The apex court is dealing with a batch of petitions concerning the interpretation of certain provisions of the PMLA. Whether one could call these investigations witch-hunting is another matter. There is proof enough that in almost all the cases the ED was not wrong.

There is enough evidence of the wrongdoings and financial irregularities committed by these accused. Yet, nearly a score of political parties – liberal, secular and anti-BJP grouping – preferred to question the SC's wisdom in upholding the ED powers. All of them called it unfortunate that the honourable judges thought it fit to do so. So is corruption not a matter to be investigated? Or does it become relevant only if a non-BJP government investigates it? Still better, shall we say as long as the BJP is in power, ED and CBI etc., should close shop?

What is unfortunate is not that the SC thought it fit to pronounce thus in vis-a-vis PMLA. It is the criminal-political nexus that has reached its peak in the country that is unfortunate. As of date, 4,700 cases are being investigated, right from the inception, by ED. The number of cases taken up for investigation each year in the last five years varies from 111 cases in 2015-16 to 981 in 2020-21. This is the average number of cases, Mehta had told the bench. For the politicians it might look normal but not for the people.

A few crores may be small change for some of the political bigwigs, but the voters understand that it is their hardened money that is being stashed away through illegal means. It is not enough if the Chief Ministers and the Prime Minister are vigilant as in case of some. Prevention of corruption at all levels is important as it poses a serious challenge to development. Corruption in democratic processes like elections and in Legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policy making, as experts often proclaim. The biggest threat to democracy is corruption and it is this that the political parties should fight and not rue judiciary's decisions in the right direction.

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