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Rs 4,730 cr worth of sand illegally mined in TN for past 1-2 yrs: ED tells MHC

The Madras High Court reserved the final orders in a case challenging the summons issued by the ED against 10 District Collectors regarding illegal sand mining.

Rs 4,730 cr worth of sand illegally mined in TN for past 1-2 yrs: ED tells MHC
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Representative image. (File)

CHENNAI: The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has submitted before the Madras High Court (MHC) that Rs 4,730 crore worth of sand has been mined illegally in Tamil Nadu for the past 1-2 years.

The Madras High Court reserved the final orders in a case challenging the summons issued by the ED against 10 District Collectors regarding illegal sand mining. The order will be pronounced on Tuesday.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) ARL Sundaresan appeared for the ED and submitted the objection affidavit of the investigation agency before a division bench comprising Justice SS Sundar and Justice Sunder Mohan.

The affidavit stated that their investigation revealed that the State exchequer and the public of the state had been looted of Rs 4,730 crores in just 1-2 years.

It further stated that only the Water Resources Department (WRD) is permitted to mine and sell the sand in the state, it is a direct cause of offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 by various public servants.

ED is in possession of credible Scientific evidence, based on a Technical study of all mining sites using drone and LIDAR surveys, Bathymetric surveys, satellite imagery processing, etc, which establishes that rampant illegal sand mining has happened in the jurisdiction of various district collectors, stated the affidavit.

It is crucial to examine district collectors on the evidence gathered with respect to illegal sand mining and related proceeds of crime for the mining sites under their jurisdiction, read the affidavit.

The ED also contended that nearly 24 lakh units of excess volume of sand has been illegally mined, the technical study of the mining sites and illegal mining reveals Rs 4730 crores of public money has been looted, as against recorded revenue of merely Rs 36.45 crores, which is even one percent. The district collectors have failed to discharge several important duties when rampant illegal sand mining has been going on under their noses and filed misconceived petitions before MHC, the affidavit added.

The ASG contended that the petition filed challenging the summon is not maintainable.

It is further contended that Section 50 (2) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) empowers the ED to summon any person and such person can be both a private individual or an office holder, there is absolutely no bar in summoning any person in his official capacity.

The ASG also contended that the State is not cooperating with the investigation and has not issued the FIR registered regarding sand mining.

ASG argued that the ED is not conducting a roving inquiry, but doing their duty, there is rampant illicit mining happening in the State, which is a clear exploitation of the country's wealth.

It was also submitted that the ED filed an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) based on four FIRs registered for illicit sand mining.

Senior counsel Dushyant Dave appeared for the State contended that even though thousands of illicit sand mining cases are pending in States such as Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, the ED has not conducted any inquiry. The action of the investigation agency is a violation of federalism, said the counsel.

There is a lack of scheduled offence and proceeds of crime in the ED investigation without that, the investigation cannot conduct a roving inquiry.

The senior counsel cited section 54 (J) of PMLA and argued that the ED cannot summon the district collectors, they have to request their assistance.

It was also contended that the ED is asking for a list of all the sand mines located in the State which cannot be allowed.

The bench intervened and observed that the court is feeling something intentional in summoning the District Collectors, if the ED wants their assistance they have to ask for their particulars and not summon them.

The ED issued summons to 10 district collectors after conducting surprise checks at various sand quarry sites in the State.

Aggrieved by this the State and district collectors of Karur, Trichy, Thanjavur, Ariyalur, and Vellore approached the MHC challenging the summons issued in connection with the investigation of illicit sand mining.

DTNEXT Bureau
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