A new member has been appointed to the Adjudicating Authority of the PMLA by the government after over 5 months of the vacancy being created in the body that is also handling cases under the benami law as a temporary measure.
The appointment of Jha, who till recently served as the Principal Chief Commissioner of Income Tax in Pune, is "for a period of 5 years with effect from the date of assumption of charge of the post or till his attaining the age of 65 years, or until further orders, whichever is earliest."
The order was issued recently by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
PTI had first reported in June this year that the Authority for the adjudication of cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) was working with only two members as the Chairman had retired in March.
The three-member Authority is entrusted to go through attachment of assets orders issued by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), under the criminal sections of the PMLA, and order for its continuity or release on merits of the investigation conducted.
It is a mechanism put in the PMLA scheme to safeguard the interests of the accused against coercive criminal action.
The Authority, sources said, has a pendency of over 200 cases at present and it had written to the government in the past to give it the sanctioned manpower and also create a new body to adjudicate attachment of assets cases filed under theBenami Transactions (Prohibition) Act, enacted in 1988, but revived and enforced by the Modi government from November 1, 2016.
In the absence of such an authority (for benami cases) for close to 2 years now, the government had entrusted the task of handling these cases on an ad-hoc basis and as a "transitional" arrangement to the Adjudicating Authority for the PMLA.
There is a pendency of over 700 cases under the anti-benami assets law at present.
The law is enforced by the Income Tax Department (ITD) in the country.
The Authority had recently written to the government that it "cannot handle the pressure of work under both the PMLA and the Benami Act and do justice with both" and a single authority cannot handle the two Acts due to "huge work being thrown" at it by two departments of the government-- the ITD and the ED-- after demonetisation and the enforcement of the benami law in 2016.
"There is still no clarity as to by when the new Authority under the Benami Transactions Act will be created by the government. This is too little and too late as benami cases are going on andgetting time-barred (time limit to adjudicate) even as the second anniversary to the enactment of the benami law and the demonetisation is fast approaching in November," a senior official in the Finance Ministry, that has superintendence over these issues, said.
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