Supreme court upholds powers of arrest, raids, seizure under PMLA

Supreme court upholds powers of arrest, raids, seizure under PMLA

News: The Supreme Court has upheld the validity of several key provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act(PMLA) which gives the Enforcement Directorate wider powers of arrest, seizure and makes it difficult to obtain bail.

• A number of petitions were filed in the Supreme Court challenging the amendments that were introduced to the PMLA Act by way of Finance Acts.
• The petitioners claimed that these amendments would violate personal liberty, procedures of law and the constitutional mandate. They claimed that the process itself was the punishment.

What did the court say?
• The Supreme Court has upheld the amendments made to the PMLA Act. These amendments give ED wider powers of arrest, seizure and makes it difficult to obtain bail.

On EDs of power of arrest
• The petitioners had argued that the ED could arrest a person even without informing him of the charges. This power violated the right to ‘due process’ enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution.
• However, the court rejected the notion that the ED has been given blanket powers of arrest, search of person and property and seizure. The court said there were in-built safeguards within the Act, including the recording of reasons in writing while effecting an arrest.

On not providing ECIR to the accused
• SC held that it was not mandatory for the ED to provide a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) to the accused. The court was of the view that it is enough if the ED disclosed the grounds of arrest at the time of the arrest. (ECIR is ED document similar to the police FIR)

On Twin conditions of Bail
• The court ​​upheld the stringent twin bail conditions required under the law for granting bail to an accused. The two conditions require a court to hear the public prosecutor against the bail plea and reach a satisfaction that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the accused is not guilty of the offense and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.
• However, the court said undertrials could seek bail under Section 436A of the Code of Criminal Procedure if they had already spent one-half of the term of punishment in jail for the offence prescribed in law. But, again, this is not an “absolute right” and would depend from case to case.

On issue of burden of proof rests on the accused
• The court upheld this provision and said that this provision did not suffer from the “vice of arbitrariness or unreasonableness”.

On introduction of amendments through Money bills
• The SC held that this issue would be separately examined by a larger Bench of the apex court.

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