ED May Approach Court to Get Shahjahan Sheikh under Its Charge after 10-day Police Custody Ends: Agency Sources to News18 sattaex.com

Suspended Trinamool Congress leader Shahjahan Sheikh being produced at the Basirhat court, in North 24 Parganas, on February 29, 2024. (Image/PTI)

The suspended Trinamool Congress leader was finally arrested by West Bengal police on Thursday after evading authorities since an attack on ED officials in Sandeshkhali in January while they were raiding properties linked to him

Suspended Trinamool Congress leader Shahjahan Sheikh, the main accused in the Sandeshkhali case, was arrested on Thursday and sent into police custody for 10 days. Now News18 has learnt that the Enforcement Directorate is likely to seek custody of the West Bengal strongman after this period ends.

Shahjahan had been evading authorities since an attack on ED officials in Sandeshkhali in January while they were raiding properties linked to him. The TMC on Thursday suspended him from the party for six years.

The ED has already approached a division bench of the Calcutta High Court appealing for the transfer of the case from West Bengal police to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), citing its apprehension of documents and evidence related to the ration scam, which the central agency is probing, being tampered with.

Allegations against Shahjahan

Shahjahan is an accused in the scam and the ED has reasons to believe that he has the proceeds of the crime in his possession, a senior officer in the directorate said.

Sandeshkhali in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district had been witnessing widespread protests against Shahjahan Sheikh for several weeks, with many women seeking justice against alleged atrocities committed by the now-ousted TMC leader and his associates.

‘Arresting Shahjahan wasn’t ED’s mandate’

Responding to statements by senior police officers and senior Trinamool Congress leaders questioning the ED’s role in not arresting Shahjahan, a senior official of the central agency said that a case of assault and attempt to murder was lodged with the local police after the attack on the ED team. Law and order is a state subject and does not come under the purview of the directorate, he added.

“ED can only arrest under section 19 of PMLA (Prevention of Money Laundering Act). That is the ED’s mandate. Arresting someone for assault, rioting, or attempt to murder charges is not ED’s duty. We, going by the rules, lodged an FIR against the accused person. In fact, the Bengal police had over a month to arrest him even before the court order dated February 7, putting a stay on forming the SIT,” said a senior officer.

Section 19 of the PMLA empowers authorised officials of the Enforcement Directorate to arrest a person based on the material in his or her possession, providing a reasonable finding or evidence to suspect that the individual has committed an offence punishable under the law.

The ED officer added that the raid conducted at Shahjahan’s residence was under section 17 of PMLA which empowers the agency to search the premises of an accused or suspected person.

“During the raids, we did not get Shahjahan, and then we were attacked by hundreds of armed people. We did not even know at that time whether we would even need to arrest him or not. We conduct search operations at so many places, based on inputs and findings. We do not arrest all of them. However, in Sandeshkhali, our officers were assaulted and they were critically injured,” said another senior ED official. “We lodged an FIR and requested them to add an attempt to murder section as well. This is not our duty to bypass the police and arrest the accused. Moreover, ED can only operate under PMLA. We do not have jurisdiction under IPC.”

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