Kochi, Dec 7 (IANS): Two-time former state Finance Minister and top CPI(M) leader, Thomas Isaac, on Thursday got a breather when a Division Bench of the Kerala High Court stayed a November 24 interim order of a single-judge which allowed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to issue fresh summons to him and Kerala Infrastructure Investment Fund Board (KIIFB) officials in connection with a probe into KIFFB’s financial transactions.
“These writ appeals came from two different writ petitions pending before this court. A learned single judge passed a common order on 10/10/2022 after hearing both sides. The order interdicted respondents from issuing summons pursuant to investigation initiated under FEMA read with provisions of the Income Tax Act. On 24/11/2023 the matter came up before justice Devan Ramachandran of this court. The learned judge ordered that the writ petition would not stand in the way of the respondents issuing fresh summons. We note that the earlier order by Justice VG Arun was a detailed one. Therefore, without hearing the matter, another judge cannot issue an order virtually modifying the order of the other single judge... We are not on the merit of the controversy involved in the matter.... In light of the law we set aside the interim order dated 24/11/2023," the Division Bench ordered.
Isaac and KIIFB had challenged the single Bench interim order after the ED had issued summons to them in connection with alleged violations of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) by issuing 'Masala Bonds', i.e, rupee denominated bonds outside India. This was done during the tenure of Isaac as Finance Minister during 2016-21.
Isaac challenged the summons issued by the ED seeking his documents as well as those of his family members in connection with the probe.
Incidentally, on October 10, 2022, single-judge Justice VG Arun had ordered that no further summons be issued to Isaac and KIIFB for two months. This interim order was extended periodically while the petition remained pending. However, on November 24 this year, Justice Devan Ramachandran passed an interim order allowing the ED to issue fresh summons and continue with its investigation, subject to further orders.
This breather appears to be based on technical issues as the Division Bench said they were not going into the merit of the issue, thus enabling the ED to return to the single Bench again to force their points and the need for issuing summons to both the parties.