The state government said the submission of the ED, that the CBI may have to step in with regard to some of the offences, was a "motivated one".

File photo of Monson Mavunkal being escorted by the police in KeralaMonson Mavunkal. Image: PTI
news Court Tuesday, November 30, 2021 - 09:49

Bringing an outside agency to probe various complaints against self-styled antiquities dealer Monson Mavunkal, as suggested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), when the state police is conducting an investigation from all angles, amounts to interfering with the federal system of the Constitution, the Left government told the Kerala High Court on Monday. The state government said the submission of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on November 19, that it has jurisdiction to probe only the financial trail of alleged scam and CBI may have to step in with regard to the other offences, was "motivated one".

"When the state police is conducting the investigation on all angles and there is no allegation as against the police in this respect, the request to bring in an outside agency may amount to interfering with Constitutional freedom and structure in a federal polity," the state government said in an affidavit placed before Justice Devan Ramachandran.

It told the court that the "over-enthusiasm" shown by ED to bring the CBI — "which has no role either legally or factually in the dispute agitated by the petitioner in this writ petition" — into the picture "cannot be viewed lightly".

It further said, "The posture of the ED in the recent past against the state government in certain cases are against the basic tenets of the federal system, which is an inalienable part of the basic structure of the Constitution. Hence, it is clear that the statement on behalf of the ED that CBI may have to step in has to be viewed as a motivated one."

The state, in its affidavit, also said that the Supreme Court has held on several occasions that there cannot be any fishing or roving enquiry in the matter of investigation of criminal cases and during the ongoing probe if any new offence is disclosed or if other persons are found involved, the police will definitely proceed in that direction.

With regard to the court's query earlier as to why no action was taken under the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972 against Mavunkal after former DGP Loknath Behera raised doubts regarding genuineness of the artistic treasures and antiques at the controversial antique dealer's house subsequent to his visit there, the state government has said that the "state police is not competent to investigate on its own any of the offences under the said Act".

The affidavit was filed in response to a plea by Mavunkal's former driver-cum-mechanic — Ajith E V — alleging harassment by his former employer and some police officers close to him. Ajith, represented by advocates Philip T Varghese and Thomas T Varghese, had alleged that the harassment started after he made certain disclosures to police in connection with a cheating case against the self-styled antiques dealer.

Regarding the petitioner's grievances, the state government said that his concerns have been "fully redressed" by an undertaking given by the respondents (including the officers in question) that he will not be harassed in any manner and the police will act only in accordance with the procedure established by law.

"In view of the above, nothing survives further in the matter. No other order is required to be issued in the writ petition in light of the specific undertaking made by the police," the state said and urged the High Court to close the matter.

On November 19, the ED had told the high court that it has registered a case against Mavunkal and has commenced a preliminary investigation. Cherthala native Mavunkal, who claimed to be in possession of rare and historic antiques, was arrested by the district Crime Branch which has been investigating a cheating case of Rs 10 crore from different people.

Mavunkal had apparently borrowed the amount from various people saying he was in need of funds to "clear procedures to obtain Rs 2,65,000 crore, a massive amount from his account in a foreign bank." Many photos of the accused with KPCC chief Sudhakaran, senior IPS officials, senior bureaucrats and many others were telecast in mainstream media.

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