Updated: Wed, 27 Jul 2022 12:04 PM IST
The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the constitutional validity of almost all provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which was under challenge in the court. The top court's verdict came on the objections raised against the powers given to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under the PMLA regarding initiating an investigation, the power to arrest, search and seizure and also the twin bail conditions.
The Court upheld the validity of Sections 3 (definition of money laundering), 5 (attachment of property), 8(4) [taking possession of attached property), 17 (search and seizure), 18 (search of persons), 19 (powers of arrest), 24 (reverse burden of proof), 44 (offences triable by the special court), 45 (offences being cognizable and non-bailable).
A bench of Justices AM Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar, while pronouncing a verdict on a batch of 241 petitions challenging the validity of the law, 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.
"The Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) cannot be equated with FIR and ECIR is an internal document of the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Supply of ECIR to accused is not mandatory and only disclosure of reasons during the arrest is enough," the bench said.
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.