Aspects of PMLA Judgment Need a Relook, SC While Issuing Notice
SC on July 27 upheld the stringent provisions of the PMLA Act which outlined ED's powers to arrest, search, and seizure among others.
Supreme Court issued notice on Congress leader Karti Chidambaram's plea seeking a review of its July 27 judgment upholding the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that outline the Enforcement Directorate's power of arrest, attachment of properties, search and seizure.
The bench led by outgoing Chief Justice of India NV Ramana observed that this country could not afford offenses like money laundering and the spread of black money. The bench remarked that the object [of the act] was noble, but two aspects of the PMLA judgment needed a re-look: a) not providing the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) under PMLA proceedings to the accused; b) reverse burden of proof on an accused to prove his innocence.
In issuing notice, the bench also extended for four weeks its order granting interim protection to the aggrieved.
Appearing for the Centre, Solicitor General opposed this and argued that an error in a judgment cannot be ground for review. "This (PMLA Act) is not a standalone provision, and we are part of the larger global structure and Supreme Court held it is in tune with the international and constitutional scheme," Mehta added.
However, senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, said the retrospective application of the act also needed reconsideration. He urged the bench to reconsider the entire judgment.
"The judgment holds money laundering is a continuing offense. So proceeds from 1999 can be an offense, even if it (money laundering) was not a scheduled offense at the time. But now, proceedings can be initiated against an accused now on grounds of concealing proceeds of crime. That is the issue," Sibal said.
"The judgment holds that PMLA is not a penal statute. That needs to be reconsidered," Sibal added.
CJI Ramana however stuck to his decision revealing that the brother judges on the bench – Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar were not "agreeable" on reconsideration of the entire verdict.
Interestingly, on August 23 while striking down provisions of the Benami Transactions Act, 1988 the bench led by CJI Ramana expressed concerns about the PMLA judgment which allowed the Enforcement Directorate to take possession of a property before trial in exceptional circumstances.
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