The Supreme Court on Tuesday cautioned the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against creating an “atmosphere of fear.” The apex court made this remark while hearing the application of Chhattisgarh government. The Chhattisgarh government said that many excise officers have complained that they are being intimidated and pressurized to “implicate” Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel in a money laundering case linked to a ₹2000-crore liquor scam.
A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Ahsanuddin Amanullah said that even a “bona fide cause” would seem suspect if a law enforcement agency conducted itself in a way that created an atmosphere of fear.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Chhattisgarh, submitted in court that over 50 excise department officials in the State have complained about threats and “mental and physical torture” from the ED during the course of investigation. Sibal said, “It is a shocking state of affairs. The ED is running amok. They are threatening Excise officers.” Mr. Sibal contended that the State’s Assembly election was slated for 2023 “and that is why it is happening”.
Meanwhile, Additional Solicitor General S.V. Raju said that the ED was just doing its duty and investigating a scam in the State.
The State, in its application, said, “52 officers of the Department of Excise have given complaint in writing alleging mental and physical torture by the officers of the Enforcement Directorate during the course of investigation”.
The State noted that several officers have made serious allegations that even their family members were not spared. They too were “physically abused and threatened to sign blank pages or pre-typed documents”. It added that one of the petitioners in the liquor scam case has put it on record before the Special Judge, PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act), that “he is being beaten up to name the Chief Minister of the State”.