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ED officer’s arrest in bribery scandal ignites political controversy in Tamil Nadu Categorical Occasions

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DVAC officers search the workplace of Enforcement Directorate in Madurai on December 1, 2023.
| Photograph Credit score: MOORTHY G

The arrest of an officer of the Union authorities’s Enforcement Directorate (ED) by the Tamil Nadu State police’s Anti-Corruption wing on December 1 on costs of extortion and bribery has ignited a political firestorm throughout the nation, particularly on social media platforms. The BJP and right-wing factions have labelled the arrest as an act of vengeance by the DMK authorities towards a central investigation company, citing the latest arrest of a minister in a cash-for-job rip-off and the continuing investigation towards one other for unlawful pink sand mining licences.

The controversy erupted when the Dindigul district Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-corruption (DVAC) caught 40-year-old Ankit Tiwari, an officer of the Sub-Zonal ED workplace in Madurai, red-handed. He was receiving a bribe of Rs. 20 lakh from a authorities physician in Dindigul, round 60 kilometres from Madurai, in reference to a case. This was the primary installment of a complete bribe quantity of Rs. 51 lakh. The physician, alongside together with his spouse (additionally a doctor), runs a hospital in Dindigul.

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Following Tiwari’s arrest, the ED workplace in Madurai was subjected to a 10-hour search. A small crew of Central Reserve Police Drive (CRPF) initially resisted the search however finally relented. The searches reportedly yielded some incriminating paperwork and Tiwari’s laptop computer was seized. In the meantime, after information of the raid unfold, a closely armed paramilitary unit was deployed to the ED workplace situated at Shastri Bhavan in Chennai.

A press launch issued by the state police’s headquarters in Chennai after the arrest acknowledged, “On October 29, 2023, Tiwari contacted a authorities worker from Dindigul and talked about a case registered towards him within the Dindigul Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Division, which was already disposed of.” Nevertheless, the DVAC didn’t reveal the character of the case towards the physician. Tiwari allegedly promised to “shut the file” in trade for the Rs. 51 lakh bribe, decreasing his preliminary demand of Rs. 3 crore.

The press launch additional claimed that Tiwari was threatening and extorting cash from a number of individuals beneath the pretext of “closing their circumstances.” He additionally allegedly knowledgeable the physician that the ED had obtained directions from the Prime Minister’s Workplace to pursue his case. Tiwari known as the physician on WhatsApp and instructed him to look earlier than the ED workplace in Madurai on October 30. On November 1, he demanded Rs. 3 crore as a bribe to “clear” the physician’s case. After negotiations, he allegedly lowered his demand to Rs. 51 lakh on “directions from his superiors.”

After the physician paid the primary installment of Rs. 20 lakh, Tiwari started demanding the remaining sum. The physician, rising suspicious of his persistent calls for, alerted the DVAC. A lure was laid, and when the physician handed over the second installment of Rs. 20 lakh on December 1, Tiwari was caught red-handed. A senior DVAC officer instructed Frontline that Tiwari “fell right into a lure like a rat”. The chemically-coated denomination notes and the dashboard digital camera recording from the physician’s automobile offered incriminating proof. Tiwari was arrested beneath the Prevention of Corruption Act and remanded to judicial custody for 15 days. The DVAC has indicated that the scope of the investigation is likely to be additional expanded to find out the involvement of another ED officers.

Political impacts of the arrest

The DVAC raid on the ED workplace has created a political uproar. This incident coincides with ongoing tensions between the DMK and the BJP, with the DMK accusing the central company of participating in “BJP’s politically motivated retribution” via its heightened actions in Tamil Nadu. Varied opposition events, together with the DMK, have accused the Union authorities of abusing central businesses to intimidate political adversaries and acquire a bonus.

In response, the BJP accused the DMK authorities of retaliating towards the ED for arresting DMK Minister V Senthil Balaji in an alleged cash-for-jobs rip-off a number of months in the past. The minister stays imprisoned. The company additionally investigated Increased Schooling Minister Ok Ponmudi, raiding his home in Villupuram. Extra lately, the ED raided sand quarries within the State, citing unlawful mining and irregularities in sand gross sales. It subsequently issued summons to 10 district collectors overseeing the mining operations. Nevertheless, the State authorities and the collectors efficiently petitioned the Madras Excessive Courtroom, which stayed the summons.

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Some argue that the State police can not legally take motion towards a central company just like the ED throughout the State. Nevertheless, since regulation and order is a State topic, the regulation says that “With the State Authorities revoking Common Consent to CBI beneath Sec 6 of DSPE Act, State Police has sole jurisdiction over Central Authorities workers too in its territory beneath Prevention of Corruption Act.” This argument references the latest state choice to revoke the Common Consent granted to the CBI.

As anticipated, the BJP and right-wingers have come ahead to help the ED. State president Ok Annamalai instructed the media in Thoothukudi that the incident was a person’s fault and shouldn’t be seen as a mirrored image on the company itself. Annamalai additional acknowledged that “If the officer is discovered responsible of misconduct, he ought to face acceptable authorized motion.” However, Congress MP Manick Thakur criticised the ED on X (previously Twitter), calling it “Extortion Directorate.”

In the meantime, the ED had given a petition to the Tamil Nadu DGP Shankar Jiwal saying that the searches at its workplace by the DV AC had been malafide. Many delicate supplies stored within the workplace had been tampered with and lacking.

It is very important be aware that this isn’t the primary time an ED official has been arrested by State police. In November, Rajasthan’s Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) arrested two ED officers from Manipur in Jaipur on bribery costs in reference to a coupon fund case.

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