Two days after the Enforcement Department (ED) quizzed former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP president Mehbooba Mufti in connection with a money-laundering case, the law enforcement agency shifted its focus on the two hand-written diaries that were recovered from Mufti’s aide during searches conducted last year.
The Sunday Express reported that the diaries were maintained by her aide and were recovered from his Srinagar residence during searches conducted on December 23, 2020.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief was reportedly shown the pages from one of the diaries that lists “alleged monthly payments made out of the CM’s discretionary funds to several individuals including her relatives; as payment for party activities and to meet ‘personal’expenses”.
After her questioning was over, Mufti had said: “Dissent has been criminalised in the country. One who speaks against you [the Centre] is being either booked under sedition charges or being summoned by the investigative agencies.”
She also alleged that anyone opposing the current government was “hounded by trumped up charges” like sedition or money laundering. “Dissent has been criminalised in this country. The ED, Central Bureau of Investigation and the National Investigation Agency are being misused to silence the opposition tactically,” Mufti said after emerging from the ED office at Rajbagh here.
“This country is not being run by the Constitution but the agenda of a particular political party,” she alleged. Asked about the questions put forth to her by the ED, the PDP chief said she was asked about the sale of her ancestral land in Bijbehara area of Anantnag district and the use of the chief minister’s discretionary funds.
“Questions were asked regarding the sale of our ancestral land in Bijbehara and use of the chief minister’s discretionary fund. I was asked from where would come the list of widows who were receiving help from the CM’s secret funds,” Mufti said, adding that she had nothing to fear as her hands were clean. The former chief minister said her party will continue to pursue the agenda for resolution of Jammu and Kashmir’s problem and restoration of its special status as it existed before August 5, 2019.
Later, the PDP president took to Twitter claiming that she had reluctantly signed the statement made before the ED. “To set the record straight, during the course of my questioning at the ED, right from the start I insisted on not signing any statements till I consulted my lawyers. But I was shown rule books & told that not signing would have consequences,” she tweeted.
“Finally despite my reluctance, I was forced to sign a statement which is evident from the CCTV footage of my questioning,” Mufti added. The Peoples Democratic Party president did not appear before the agency in Delhi on Monday, citing that she had prior commitments which could not be cancelled.
Mufti requested the ED officials to question her in Srinagar and not in Delhi, and her request was accepted. The 61-year-old leader, who was released last year after more than a year in detention following the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, was served a notice to appear at the ED headquarters in the national capital.
On March 19, the Delhi High Court had refused to stay summons issued to her after she moved the court seeking quashing of the summons in the case. The ED, which had earlier summoned Mufti on March 15, had not insisted on her personal appearance at that time.
“I write to you in reference to the summons issued to me to be present at your Delhi office on March 22. I have challenged in the Delhi High Court the constitutional vires of Section 50 of the PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act), under which these summons are issued,” she said in a letter to the ED. Section 50 of the PMLA empowers the authority, that is, officers of the ED, to summon any person to give evidence or produce records. Persons summoned are bound to answer the questions put to them and to produce documents as required by the ED officers, failing which they can be penalised under the PMLA.
The PDP leader had said that without prejudice to any of the contentions in the proceedings before the high court, “I state that I am not in a position to attend the summon on March 22 as I have prior commitments that cannot be cancelled at such a short notice”. “If, however, you insist we must do it sooner, I am ready and willing to be questioned in Srinagar, preferably at my residence or through video conference from Srinagar,” Mufti had said in her letter.