SC Defers Hearing on pleas for Reconsideration of 2022 PMLA verdict that upheld ED’s Power to arrest

The Supreme Court on Thursday adjourned by eight weeks the hearing on pleas seeking reconsideration of its July 27, 2022 verdict, which had upheld the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) powers to arrest and attach property under the PMLA.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul deferred the hearing, which continued since Wednesday, after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, sought time to address the arguments raised by the petitioners in detail.

The bench also comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and Bela M Trivedi allowed the amendment application moved by the petitioner’s side, by which various ‘new aspects’ have been raised, and asked the Centre to file its reply within four weeks.

The apex court said that the rejoinder to the Centre’s reply be filed within four weeks thereafter.

“The deferment will leave really no time for this court to pen down the order,” the bench said, adding, “the Chief Justice of India will have to reconstitute the bench, in view of one of us (Justice Kaul) demitting the office.”

The bench said necessary orders be obtained from the CJI in this regard.

Justice Kaul is set to demit office on December 25.

After senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Singhvi concluded their arguments on behalf of the petitioners, Mehta sought time to advance his submissions, saying the apex court will have to take a comprehensive view of the PMLA and the petitioner have done “selective reading” in “bits and pieces”.

While hearing the arguments on Wednesday, the top court had said its “limited ambit” was whether the 2022 verdict was required to be reconsidered by a larger bench of five judges.

While the Centre had told the apex court that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) was an “important legislation” for the nation, the petitioners’ side claimed the ED has become an “unruly horse” and can go anywhere it wanted.

The bench was hearing the pleas seeking reconsideration of the July 27, 2022 verdict by a three-judge bench on certain parameters.

In August last year, the top court had agreed to hear a plea seeking a review of its July 2022 verdict and observed that two aspects– not providing an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and reversal of the presumption of innocence — “prima facie” required reconsideration.

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The apex court had in its 2022 verdict said ECIR filed by ED cannot be equated with an FIR, and providing a copy of it to the person concerned in every case was not mandatory.

It had upheld the validity of certain provisions of the PMLA, underlining it was not an “ordinary offence”.

The bench had said authorities under the Act were “not police officers as such” and the ECIR cannot be equated with an FIR under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

It had said supply of an ECIR copy in every case to the person concerned was not mandatory and it was enough if ED, at the time of arrest, discloses the grounds of such arrest.

In that verdict, the top court had upheld the ED’s powers of arrest, attachment of property involved in money laundering, search and seizure under the PMLA.

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