Nirmala Sitharaman, the Finance Minister, has defended the Enforcement Directorate’s independence, dispelling allegations that the government uses it for political or vindictive purposes.
On Saturday, after returning from Washington, where she attended the annual meetings of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, Sitharaman attended a news conference to deny that two of the organization’s wings—the Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate (ED)—had caused any kind of fear in the corporate sector or civil society.
“Well, the ED is an independent agency that is responsible for tracking down predicate offenses. “The first offence is already being investigated by another agency, whether it is the Central Bureau of Investigation or another agency, and then the ED enters the picture,” Sitharaman explained.
As a result, she dismissed concerns that such institutions would be used to target sections of the private capital market and civil society for malign purposes.
The perception is widespread that these institutions have been used to target private capital as well as civil society. ED has a very low conviction rate. In spite of this, there is a feeling that it has been a very difficult process for the civil society institutions that have been investigated. ED and IT play an important role in think-tank communities, the finance minister was asked.
Sitharaman, however, insisted that whatever the ED does is based on proper information and evidence.
In the first instance, the ED does not appear anywhere. “I do not wish to comment on the specific cases or the approach, but there are instances that are so noteworthy that if the ED goes there, it will have prima facie evidence in hand,” said Sitharaman.