In a verdict that will directly affect the opposition leaders under the scanner of the Enforcement Directorate, the Supreme Court bench comprising Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravi Kumar has upheld the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The issue before the court was to determine whether or not the law is violative of the constitutional guarantee of the right to liberty and right against self-incrimination under Articles 20 and 21 raised by the petitioners, Son of former finance and home minister P Chidambaram and Congress MP from Tamil Nadu and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti.
The ruling was concerning the interpretation of certain provisions of the PMLA in relation to an expansive definition of proceeds of crime, search and seizure, power of arrest, attachment of properties and tough bail conditions.
The petitioners challenged various issues with regard to the PMLA such as the absence of procedure to commence an investigation and summoning the accused. They also raised objections to not being made aware of the contents of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR). To which, the supreme court said that it is not mandatory to give an Enforcement Case Information Report in every case to the person concerned. It reasoned that the ECIR cannot be equated to FIR as it is an internal document of the Enforcement Directorate. The top court also held that ED officers are not obligated to disclose the ground of arrest while detaining the accused in a money laundering case.
The union government hold the view that money laundering is not merely a financial irregularity but it is a direct threat to the integrity and sovereignty of the nation. It defended the interpretation of the PMLA sections to be stringent.
Many politicians of the opposite camps than the present political dispensation are facing investigation by ED, the central investigating agency responsible for fighting financial crimes in India. Incidentally, Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi is being questioned on a third consecutive day at the ED office for her alleged role in the National Herald case.
Since Narendra Modi came into power in 2014, ED has conducted 3,010 raids as compared to only 112 raids during the UPA rule from 2004 to 2014. PMLA was enacted in 2002 and implemented on July 1, 2005.