Backing the Enforcement Directorate with an important judgement, the Supreme Court Wednesday rejected all objections raised against the ED regarding several powers including initiating an investigation, the power to arrest, and others.
The apex court has 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 under challenge in the court.
Section 19, which deals with the power to arrest, does not suffer from the “vice of arbitrariness”, Supreme Court said, adding that Section 5 of the Act relating to the attachment of property of those involved in money laundering is also constitutionally valid.
According to the court, the money laundering not only affects the social and economic fabric of the nation but also tends to promote other heinous offences such as terrorism, offences related to NDPS Act (The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act) etc.
The petitions had argued that unchecked power to arrest the accused without informing them of grounds of arrest or evidence is unconstitutional.
The ED recording incriminating statements from an accused during questioning under the threat of being fined for withholding information amounts to compulsion, they told the apex court.
The petitions claimed that putting the burden of proof on the accused violates fundamental rights like the right to equality and the right to life.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appeared for Union govt, responded by saying that 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.
The filing PMLA charges on cases that occurred before 2002 (when PMLA came into existence) is unconstitutional, was also turned down by the top court.
The ED’s ‘money laundering’ raids are up 26 times under the Narendra Modi govt, but the conviction rate is low.
The Enforcement Directorate has convicted only 23 persons in 5,422 cases registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act since PMLA came into force 17 years ago, the Union government told the Lok Sabha on Monday.
The Prevention of Money Laundering Act which was enacted to prevent money laundering mainly resulting from the international narcotics and drugs trade, was enacted in 2002 and implemented in 2005.