The Supreme Court has given a big decision on the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). In a setback to the people trapped in the case registered by the Enforcement Directorate, the court has dismissed the petitions challenging various provisions of the PMLA Act.
The court has said that the amendments made in the law in 2018 are correct. Along with this, the top court has upheld all the powers of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The Supreme Court has upheld all the powers given to the ED in the PMLA Act, including arrest, raid, summons, statement. The Court has said that the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) cannot be clubbed with the FIR.
It is not necessary to give the copy of ECIR to the accused. It is enough to disclose the reasons during the arrest. The court has said that the statement given before the ED is the only evidence.
Know What Court Says –
The court said in its order that the ECIR cannot be equated to FIR as it is an internal document of the Enforcement Directorate. It added that supplying ECIR is not mandatory but a person can ask for records before a special court if continued imprisonment is necessary. The court also underlined that ED officers are not obligated to disclose the ground of arrest while detaining the accused in money laundering case.
In fact, more than 100 petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of several provisions of PMLA.
In this, the powers of the ED, the right to arrest, the manner of summoning witnesses and confiscation of property and the bail process were challenged. The petitions were filed by Congress leader Karti Chidambaram, NCP leader Anil Deshmukh and others.
The petitions had contended that the powers of arrest, bail, confiscation of property under the PMLA Act are outside the purview of the CrPC. Many provisions of this law are unconstitutional, as the procedure for investigation and trial of a cognizable offense is not followed.
The petitions said that the investigating agency should be bound to follow the CrPC while conducting the investigation. Several lawyers, including senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, had presented their side in this case.
As per media reports – Several politicians including Congress leader Karti Chidambaram and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti had challenged various provisions of the PMLA. The petitioners had alleged that the law is violative of the constitutional guarantee of the right to liberty and right against self-incrimination under Articles 20 and 21.
Only 23 have been convicted in 17 years
The Central Government, in response to a question in the Lok Sabha, said that the PMLA Act came into force 17 years ago. Since then 5,422 cases have been registered under this law. Whereas, only 23 people have been convicted. Till March 31, the ED has attached assets worth more than one lakh crore and filed charge sheets in 992 cases.
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