Several pleas had argued that the unchecked power to arrest an accused without informing them or any evidence is unconstitutional.
New Delhi: The Supreme Court Wednesday rejected almost all objections against the Enforcement Directorate’s powers to initiate a probe, the power to arrest, etc.
The apex court upheld almost all the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in proceeds of crime, search and seizure, power of arrest, attachment of properties, and bail, which were challenged before the court.
Several pleas had argued that the unchecked power to arrest an accused without informing them or any evidence is unconstitutional. The petitioners had also said that the agency recording incriminating statements from an accused during questioning under the threat of being fined for withholding information amounts to compulsion.
The Supreme Court also said that the supply of Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) is not mandatory in every case as it is an internal document. It is enough if the Enforcement Directorate, at the time of arrest, discloses grounds for such arrest, the court said.
The pleas had also said that putting the burden of proof on an accused violates the fundamental rights such as right to equality and the right to life. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who represented the Centre, said owing to the serious nature of the money laundering offences and the societal need to curb it, putting the burden of proof on the accused is justified.
A major contention over filing PMLA cases in incidents that occurred before 2002 was also turned down. The Centre justified it by saying that money laundering is a continuing offence, and not a single act but a chain. “Proceeds of crime could have been generated before 2002 but could have still been in possession or in use by the accused post-2002,” it said.
The Supreme Court had earlier reserved its order on a batch of petitions challenging some of the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The petitioners include politician Karti Chidambaram and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, among others.