On the morning of 9 March, the Enforcement Directorate conducted a raid at the residence of Sukhpal Singh Khaira, the founder and president of the Punjab Ekta Party and the member of legislative assembly from the state’s Bholath constituency. Khaira was formerly with the Aam Aadmi Party and has served as the leader of the opposition in the state assembly. The ED simultaneously conducted a raid at 9 locations in as well as two locations in Delhi, according to an official statement by Sanjay Kumar Mishra, the chief of the ED. The senior advocate RS Bains, who was at Khaira’s residence, told us that the ED officials present there were not forthcoming on the reason behind the raids. He termed the raids “targeted.”
In the statement, sent over WhatsApp at around 7 pm, Mishra stated that the raids were connected to Fazilka smuggling racket, a 2015 case when a Border Security Forces constable was arrested for allegedly smuggling drugs across the India-Pakistan border. The statement named nine inviduals who were being raided in connection with the investigation, including Khaira and his son-in-law, Inderveer Singh Johal. It alleged that Khaira was “actively aiding and supporting the gang of international smugglers and enjoying the proceeds of crime.” The statement added, “The searches are underway and have unearthed incriminating documents and digital devices.” A senior ED official in Punjab told us on the condition of anonymity that officers from the Delhi office had gone to Punjab for the raid, and that local ED officials “only provided logistical support.”
In October 2017, a district court in Punjab’s Fazilka convicted nine accused persons in the case. On the same date, the court also issued summons to Khaira and four others to appear before them as additional accused persons. Khaira challenged the summoning order in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, arguing that the summons could not be issued after the judgment was pronounced. The high court dismissed his challenge, but in the appeal before the Supreme Court, the issue was referred to a larger bench in May 2019. The matter has since been pending, awaiting to be listed before a constitution bench.