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SC to review two key points in PMLA verdict, issues notice to Centre

The Supreme Court agreed to examine a plea seeking a review of the PMLA verdict which upheld the Enforcement Directorate's powers, including those relating to arrest, and sought response from Centre

Supreme Court rules that Benami law cannot be applied retrospectively, says Supreme Court.

Press Trust of India New Delhi
The Supreme Court Thursday agreed to hear a plea seeking a review of its verdict that upheld the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) powers under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and said two aspects-- not providing an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and reversal of the presumption of innocence -- "prima facie" requires reconsideration.

The apex court issued notice to the Centre on the plea seeking re-examination of its verdict which upheld the ED's powers relating to arrest, attachment of property involved in money laundering, search, and seizure under the PMLA.

A bench headed by Chief Justice N V Ramana was hearing a plea filed by Congress MP Karti Chidambaram seeking a review of the July 27 judgement delivered by the apex court.

The bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C T Ravikumar, said the court is completely in support of the prevention of black money and money laundering and the country cannot afford such types of offences.

"There is no need for elaborate arguments. We three feel that only two aspects which may be necessary to be re-looked into the judgement," the bench said.

Referring to the two aspects relating to not providing ECIR and reversal of the presumption of innocence, the bench said after reading the judgement, "prima facie" it feels that these are the two issues that require reconsideration.

The bench said that object of the Act is noble and the offence of money laundering is serious.

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal said he has a lot of submissions to make in the matter.

"We are feeling these are the two issues which can be re-looked," the bench observed, adding, "We will issue notice." Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, said this is not a standalone provision for India and the country is part of a large global structure.

"We are part of a larger global structure and our law will have to be in tune with that larger global structure and that we have explained and the bench had very kindly examined that our law is in tune with not only that structure but our Constitution as well," he said.

"Any deviation would risk India as a nation to be sent back to the other list where we will not be able to get certain financial assistance," Mehta argued, adding there may be global repercussions as well.

The bench told Mehta that the court is not opposing the actions of the government to stop money laundering or bring back the black money or control its circulation as these offences are very serious.

Mehta said the notice should be limited to these two issues which the court has highlighted.

He also argued that the review is not maintainable.

"We are issuing notice," the bench said.

It said whatever interim protection was there in the matter, it would be extended by another four weeks and the matter would be listed before an appropriate bench.

The apex court had Wednesday allowed an application of Karti Chidambaram seeking an open court hearing of his petition to review the top court's last month's verdict. In his review petition, he has said that the verdict has an error apparent and is against the provisions of the Constitution. The top court had on Tuesday in a verdict on the application of provisions of Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016 observed its judgement on the ED's powers under the PMLA to take possession of a property before trial in exceptional cases leaves scope for arbitrary application.

In its July 27 verdict, the top court upheld the ED's powers relating to arrest, attachment of property involved in money laundering, and search and seizure under the PMLA.

Observing that it is a common experience world over that money laundering can be a "threat" to the good functioning of a financial system, the apex court upheld the validity of certain provisions of the PMLA, underlining it is not an "ordinary offence".

The top court had said authorities under the 2002 Act are "not police officers as such" and the ECIR cannot be equated with an FIR under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

It had said supply of an ECIR copy in every case to the person concerned is not mandatory and it is enough if ED, at the time of arrest, discloses the grounds of such arrest.

The court had passed the verdict on a batch of over 200 petitions filed by individuals and other entities questioning various provisions of the PMLA, a law which the opposition has often claimed has been weaponised by the government to harass its political adversaries.

The court had said section 45 of the PMLA, which deals with offences to be cognisable and non-bailable and have twin conditions for bail, is reasonable and does not suffer from the vice of arbitrariness or unreasonableness.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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First Published: Aug 25 2022 | 12:36 PM IST

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