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SC pulls up 5 TN DMs for not appearing before ED in probe linked to illegal sand mining

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday pulled up five district collectors of Tamil Nadu for not appearing physically before the Enforcement Directorate despite orders in a money laundering probe in connection with alleged illegal sand mining.

It directed the officials to appear before the ED personally on April 25.

A bench of Justice Bela M Trivedi and Justice Pankaj Mithal said the officials adopted a “cavalier approach” and the action shows they have no respect for the court, law and the Constitution.

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“In our opinion, such a cavalier approach will land them in a difficult situation. When the court had passed the order directing them to appear in response to the summons issued by the ED, they were expected to obey the same order and remain present before the ED.

“This shows that the officers don’t have either respect for the court or the law much less the Constitution of India. Such an approach is strongly deprecated,” the bench said.

Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for the Tamil Nadu government, said the officials were busy in maintaining public order and implementation of the social security scheme.

They said the Lok Sabha elections are scheduled in Tamil Nadu for April 19 and the officials have been looking after the poll-related works.

The bench said that the officials should have appeared before the probe agency and explained the reasons. It said that one last opportunity is being given to the officials to appear before the ED in connection with the money laundering probe.

On February 27, the top court directed the five district collectors to appear before the ED in connection with an ongoing money laundering probe.

The Madras High Court, on November 28, last year, stayed the summons issued by the central probe agency seeking the presence of district collectors of Vellore, Tiruchirappalli, Karur, Thanjavur and Ariyalur in connection with its ongoing probe. The ED moved the top court against the high court order, saying the non-cooperation would hamper its probe.

The Supreme Court had stayed the high court order granting relief to the district collectors and said the plea of Tamil Nadu and its officials was “strange and unusual” and may lead to stalling the investigation of ED in money laundering aspect in connection with the FIRs.

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