ED – BJP’s weapon of choice?

More and more parties accuse BJP of using the Enforcement Directorate as a political tool.

Enforcement Directorate, officially the Directorate of Enforcement, among other Union Government agencies are accused of being used as a political tool by the opposition parties time and again. Now, with the recent moves by the ED in Tamil Nadu, the debate has been kicked up all over again.

What’s happening in Tamil Nadu?

V. Senthil Balaji, a minister in the DMK Government in Tamil Nadu, has been arrested after series of raids by the ED. During the most recent raid that led to his arrest, he was questioned for over 17 hours continuously. He complained of chest pain, and he had been admitted in the hospital where he had been advised to undergo a bypass surgery. With Senthil Balaji being admitted in hospital, he has been taken in custody by the ED officials and the interim bail petition has been denied by the Court but had allowed for shifting to a private hospital in Chennai.

Tamil Nadu Governor R.N.Ravi had rejected Tamil Nadu Government’s proposal to change portfolios for the Ministries of Electricity, Excise and Prohibition which were handled by Senthil Balaji. The Governor reportedly rejected the request by citing the reason stated as “misleading and incorrect”. It is being reported that the Government might release the G.O. despite Governor’s rejections.

Enforcement Directorate (ED):

The Enforcement Directorate was established in 1956 and it falls under the aegis of the Ministry of Finance. The ED is designed to function as an independent investigative body with the power to attach (confiscate) assets acquired through proceeds of crime and prosecute individuals involved in financial crimes. The ED draws its powers by enforcing many of the laws pertaining to various economic offences such as the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) 2002, Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) 1999, Fugitive Economic Offenders Act 2018 etc.

How ED operates?

Whenever there is a offence is committed and State Police/CBI files a case against it, there is scope for the Enforcement Directorate to investigate regarding the economic aspects of the crime. Initially, the State Police or the CBI would file a First Information Report (FIR) against the corruption/crime that is committed and they will investigate it. This case forms a base as a predicate offence on which the ED can file its own case i.e.Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and start investigating. The ED investigation would focus on the proceeds of the crime and how the illegitimate funds are made legitimate using money laundering techniques and the assets bought using the proceeds of the crime. The ED has powers to freeze any assets bought using the proceeds of the crime, which is termed as attaching the property.

For example: For posting of government jobs, a minister or his aides take a bribe of Rs.3 lakhs and make postings. Several of these postings amount to, say, Rs.10 crores. Once the corruption is found out, the state police/CBI would file an FIR regarding the corruption. Once that case is filed, the ED can file its own ECIR and start investigating how Rs.10 crores has been received and how its spent and what assets are bought with it. If a property is bought with the proceeds of crime, the ED would freeze the asset which is termed as attaching the asset. If the money is kept in bank accounts, it would be attached too.

What makes ED powerful?

ED when combined with the laws that it enforces, it becomes quite powerful. In a normal police case, FIR has to be issued to the accused but whereas there is no such mandate for ECIR. After arrest is made, there is a 60-day time for the ED to file its charge sheet. So, there are some concerns raised that, the accused and their lawyers come to know what they are charged of only at that time. Moreover, confession statements in a normal police enquiry is inadmissible in court if it is contested. Whereas in enquiries conducted by the ED, any statements made can be used against them. Apart from those who face ED cases against them, some news outlets too have highlighted about these issues.

ED Case against Senthil Balaji:

While Senthil Balaji was a transport minister during the 2011-2016 AIADMK regime, he was allegedly involved in ‘jobs for money’ scandal in his ministry. A cheating case was filed against him by the Chennai Police in 2017 in addition to other cases regarding the issue. The Enforcement Directorate filed a money laundering case against him in 2021. Interestingly, DMK Chief M.K.Stalin himself levelled several allegations against Senthil Balaji in the past and a video of him making these allegations back in 2016 is doing the rounds in social media. Tamil Nadu BJP Chief K.Annamalai was quick to point out M.K.Stalin’s past charges against Senthil Balaji after ED raids and arrests.


How Senthil Balaji came to the DMK:

Senthil Balaji joined AIADMK in 2000 and he was made the Transport Minister in 2011 when the party came back to power. He was removed from the AIADMK cabinet in 2015 reportedly due to corruption and his party post was removed along with his cabinet berth. After the death of the then chief of AIADMK Jayalalitha, the party split and Senthil Balaji sided with TTV Dinakaraan’s Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK). Then he joined DMK in December 2018.

Why opposition cries foul?

It is understandable that the DMK is crying foul for Senthil Balaji’s arrest as he is a Cabinet Minister in the current DMK regime, despite the irony that it was the DMK which demanded action against Senthil Balaji’s alleged corruption in the past. But several leaders such as Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress), Arvind Kejriwal (AAP), Saugata Roy (TMC), Tejashwi Yadav (RJD), Supriya Sule (NCP), Sanjay Raut (UBT), Rajiv Ranjan (JDU), Ameeque Jamei (SP), Sitaram Yechury (CPI-M) and D Raja (CPI) condemned Senthil Balaji’s arrest.

Political tool:

The common theme from opposition leaders’ opinion is that the Union Government headed by the BJP is using the central agencies such as Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Income Tax (I-T) Department as its political tools. There have been several cases filed by the ED against the opposition leaders and there is a 27-fold increase in number of raids conducted by the ED. But it has managed to dispose of only 25 of the nearly 6000 cases it has filed which is less than 0.5%. But the department had been claiming  96% conviction rate since 24 cases have resulted in conviction out of the 25 cases. The ED has seized and attached properties worth over Rs.1 lakh crores. Moreover, an article from The Indian Express in September 2022 highlights that there is a 4 times jump in number of ED cases filed against politicians and 95% of these cases are filed against politicians from the opposition. Here’s a pictorial representation from “The Indian Express” article.

Credit: The Indian Express

Poaching through intimidation:

BJP’s notorious for poaching MLAs and forming governments even when they do not have majority on their side. Most recent example is Maharashtra. BJP engineered a split in their past long term ally, Shiv Sena, and broke it from within to form Government with a faction of Sena MLAs headed by Eknath Shinde. Karnataka, Goa, Madhya Pradesh and many other states have seen BJP manoeuvring to form Governments without having an absolute majority. Many notable politicians from various parties facing probes by the ED, CBI, I-T have also joined the BJP. After they have joined the lotus party, the cases are either closed or put in the back burner. The situation is so obvious that Sanjay Patil quipped that ED won’t come after him since he became an MP from the BJP. On the similar lines, Harshavardhan Patil said he sleeps peacefully as there is no threat of ED after joining the BJP from Congress. A forgery case against Jyotiraditya Scindia has been closed after he joined the BJP.  Other notable mentions facing ED, CBI cases joining the BJP include Himanta Biswa Sarma, Suvendhu Adhikari, Mukul Roy, Mithun Chakraborty and Narayan Rane.

Manish Sisodia made an allegation back in 2022 that he was offered a deal by the BJP to join their party and cases against him would be dropped. Pratap Sarnaik from Shiv Sena (Eknath Shinde faction) is facing ED cases against him and Rs.11 crores worth property of his has been attached by the ED. He famously wrote to Uddhav Thackeray in 2021 urging him to reunite with the BJP to avoid central agencies harassing Shiv Sena MLAs and he reiterated the same in 2022 as well.

The Chief of Intimidation Directorate:

Sanjay Kumar Mishra is the current director of the Directorate of Enforcement. He was first appointed for the job on November 2018 for a period of 2 years. When his tenure was about to end, his appointment letter was changed by fixing his tenure as 3 years, extending his tenure till November 2021. Then on November 2021, an extension was given to him to continue as the Director of ED for one more year. Then again, he was given another extension of 1 year on November 2022 when he tenure was about to end. He was given another extension on November 2022. To facilitate this, Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, and the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003 were amended. On May 2023, Union Government told the Supreme Court that Sanjay Kumar Mishra would not be heading the Directorate beyond November 2023.

Other Central Agencies:

In addition to the Enforcement Directorate, other central agencies such as the CBI, I-T, NIA etc are also accused of functioning to the whims of the BJP. Even other agencies such as Election Commission of India (ECI) faces similar allegations. In response to these criticisms from the opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that all the corrupt have come to one platform and the he also said that the anti-India forces are trying to defame India’s institutions. Arvind Kejriwal quickly responded by saying that all the corrupt have come to one party due to the ED, CBI raids.

Fighting Corruption or Opposition?

If the fight is genuinely intended to end the Corruption, there would be not be an universal condemnation for the actions of the ED and the Union Government. The fight seems to be intended to end the opposition altogether. There is already a growing concern that the BJP is pushing India into a one-party country and even the Home Minister Amit Shah had questioned whether multi-party democracy failed India. Let’s take the case of B.S.Yeddyurappa, a stalwart in BJP and in Karnataka. He has ED cases against him at least since 2014 but those have never progressed even a bit in the last 9 years of the Modi-Government. It is quite easy to cite many examples like this where there is a systemic inaction against BJP politicians accused of corruption but when it comes to the opposition, even a defamation case could result in a 2-year sentence. So, the paramount question that keeps lingering on person’s mind is, what’s the intent. Abolishing corruption or opposition.


Please complete the required fields.

Ramasamy Jayaprakash

Ramasamy works as a Sub-Editor at YouTurn and writes English articles. He makes videos for YouTurn's Tamil & English YouTube channels.
Back to top button