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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Kerala gold smuggling case: HC quashes cases alleging forced confession by ED officials

Last month, in an unprecedented development, the crime branch wing of Kerala police had registered two cases against the officials of the central government agency. The ED was of the view that the accused were attempting to divert the attention.

Written by Shaju Philip | Thiruvananthapuram |
Updated: April 16, 2021 5:25:13 pm
Canteen and bar rooms on court premises will be kept closed till further orders. Lawyers have also been asked to follow all essential precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

In a setback for the CPI (M) government in Kerala, the High Court on Friday quashed the two cases against officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for allegedly forcing the key accused persons in the gold smuggling case to confess against Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

The court acted upon a petition moved by the ED, which wanted the FIRs be quashed and the allegations against the agency be probed by CBI.

Last month, in an unprecedented development, the crime branch wing of Kerala police had registered two cases against the officials of the central government agency. The cases were registered based on the statement of Swapna Suresh claiming that ED officials were forcing her to confess she had traveled to UAE with M Sivasankar, former Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister, also an accused in the case, for financial negotiations meant for the CM. Close on the heels of this statement, another accused Sandeep Nair had written a letter to the district court in Ernakulam alleging that ED officials were forcing him to name Vijayan in the smuggling case.

The FIRs were registered under IPC sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 167 (public servant framing an incorrect document with intent to cause injury), 192 (fabricating false evidence) and 195-A (threatening any person to give false evidence).

The issue stemmed from an audio clip, which surfaced in November last year, in which Swapna – who is in jail since July 2020 – was allegedly heard saying that officials were forcing her to confess she had traveled to UAE with Sivasankar. Further, in the audio clip, she claimed they (ED officials) said they would make her an approver if she acted according to them. The audio purportedly attributed to the accused woman was recorded when she was in the custody of ED on August 12 and 13 last year.

After the state police began a probe into the leaked audio clip, the central agencies had found that Swapna was tutored to speak in such a manner (as what had been revealed in the audio clip) by a woman constable on her guard duty. The ED had written to the state police chief seeking action against the woman constable. It was alleged that the constable had acted on behalf of the ruling party.

In early March, another accused in the gold smuggling case, Sandeep Nair, had written a letter to the district judge in Ernakulam, alleging that ED officials were forcing him to name the Chief Minister in the case.

The ED was of the view that the accused were attempting to divert the attention. Besides, the accused had not made such an allegation against the officials in the court. Officials also raised suspicion behind the intention of accused Sandeep writing a letter to the court.

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