The Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed the stringent provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in connection with definition of the proceeds of crime, power of arrest, search and seizure, attachment of properties and also the twin bail conditions. The top court said stringent conditions for bail under the Act is legal and not arbitrary.
A bench comprising justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari, and C.T. Ravi Kumar delivered the judgment on over 200 petitions challenging various provisions of the PMLA. Anil Deshmukh, Karti Chidambaram, and Mehbooba Mufti were among the high-profile petitioners.
The top court said it is not mandatory for the Enforcement Directorate (ED) officers to disclose the grounds of arrest at the time of detaining an accused in a money laundering case.
The top court said the supply of ECIR in all cases isn’t necessary, however when a person is before a special court, the court can ask for records to see if continued imprisonment is necessary. It added that ECIR cannot be equated by FIR, as it is an internal document. Detailed judgment will be uploaded later in the day.
The top court dealt with the validity of a wide range of powers granted to the ED under the amended law against money laundering. The powers available to the ED for search, arrest, seizure, investigation and attachment of proceeds of offence under PMLA have been challenged.
The apex court verdict is likely to affect a huge number of Opposition leaders, who are under the scanner of the Central investigating agency.
The petitioners have contended that the PMLA provisions violate some of the fundamental rights. The petitioners said that unchecked power to arrest the accused without informing them of grounds of arrest or evidence is not constitutional.
The law has faced several criticisms, which include non-reporting of grounds of arrest, arrest of persons without ECIR (similar to FIR) copy, strict bail conditions etc.