Venugopal removed as ED counsel for ‘acting against’ govt stand
The Finance Ministry, in an order issued late last month, asked the central probe agency to ‘immediately’ replace Venugopal for ‘submitting a note’ in 2014, without consulting the ED or the Department of Revenue, on behalf of Rajeshwar Singh who is the main investigating officer in the 2G money laundering probe case.
The Supreme Court, last year, had come down heavily on the government and ordered for permanent absorption of Uttar Pradesh State Police Services officer Singh as a Deputy Director in the ED.
The Finance Ministry, under whose command the ED functions, had desired that Singh be repatriated to his cadre as his central deputation to the probe agency had come to an end.
The senior lawyer, awarded the Padma Vibhushan early this year, had then briefed the apex court about various aspects of Singh’s case and the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) ordering for Singh’s permanent absorption in the ED and subsequently the Delhi High Court refusing to stay this order.
Following these developments, the Supreme Court issued stern directions to the government that Singh be absorbed in the ED permanently.
Venugopal could not be contacted for a comment despite several attempts. Agency sources said the order has been complied with.
The latest Finance Ministry order said Venugopal’s action was carried out “without any instruction either from the ED or Department of Revenue” and it was “against the decision taken by the government”.
“In view of the conflict of interest of Shri Venugopal, you (Director ED) are requested to replace him as Special Counsel of Directorate of Enforcement. This may please be treated as immediate,” the order, dated June 22, said.
Singh, who has issued penalty notices totalling over Rs 17,000 crore against various accused involved in the 2G case till now, had taken a year-long ‘study leave’ last year owing to lack of clarity over his continuance in the agency and had even written to his superiors to get himself recused from these cases as he felt attempts were being made to derail the probe.