Indian democracy has its own checks and balances. The Financial Investigation Agency, Enforcement Directorate (ED) keeps a check on the corrupt deals happening within the nation. This helps in curbing the menace of Corruption. It also prevents foreign institutions from meddling in Indian affairs at the expense of their illicit money. However, the efficient action of the financial agency, ED, has on several occasions irked the Opposition. There has been a relentless smear campaign against the ED. The opposition continuously tried to taint various laws that gave the agency such powers. But as they say, falsehoods, baseless accusations and canards don’t last for long. The Supreme Court of India has delivered a tight slap to the opposition. It has vindicated the stand of the ED.
Supreme Court junks Opposition’s hue and cry against PMLA
The ED has been relentlessly pursuing its action against Corruption and illegal foreign funding in India. It has not shied away from taking actions against the who’s who of the politics. Several tainted leaders are facing the heat of the law and are under ED’s scanner. To get away with all of this, more than 200 petitions were filed in the apex court by various accused. They challenged various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The Supreme Court bench headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar punctured the false narratives spun by the Opposition leaders. The high profile petitioners challenging provisions of PMLA included NCP’s Anil Deshmukh, Congress’ Karti Chidambaram and PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti.
In its verdict the apex court found that a stringent condition for bail under the Act is legal and not arbitrary. The SC categorically said that the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) can’t be equated with FIR. It clearly said that ECIR is an internal document of the ED. Therefore it is not mandatory for ED to give an ECIR in every case to the person concerned. The bench added that it will be enough if the ED discloses grounds at the time of arrest.
The apex court also held that officials of the financial agency,ED, are not “police officials“. This means that the statements recorded by them under section 50 of the act don’t abridge Article 20(3) of the constitution which guarantees fundamental rights against Self-incrimination.
SC: Section 3 has wider reach and not limited to eventuality of integration of proceeds of crime . Section 5 is constitutionally valid. Challenge to Section 19 is rejected. We do not find merit in challenge to Section 44
The bench comprising Justice Dinesh Maheshwari, Justice CT Ravi Kumar and headed by Justice A M Khanwilkar held that ED has the power to make arrests. It also held that along with power of arrest, the ED can conduct searches and make seizures and attach proceeds of crime. The court said that all these powers given to ED are constitutionally valid and don’t suffer from the vice of arbitrariness.
The apex court also upheld the stringent “twin conditions” for granting bail to an accused given under Section 45 of the act. These conditions require courts to hear the arguments of the public prosecutor against the bail plea. After which the court can ascertain that there are reasonable grounds that hint at innocence of the accused. Further, the court before granting bail has to make sure that the accused is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.
The Bench of the apex court upheld the constitutionality of various provisions of the PMLA. It upheld provisions of Section 5,8(4),15, 17 and 19 of the stringent PMLA. These sections relate to the powers of ED to make arrests, search, attach and seize assets. The bench also upheld the reverse burden of proof under Section 24 of the Act. It found that there is a “reasonable nexus” with the objects of the Act.
This verdict from the highest court of the nation upholding several provisions of the stringent PMLA act is a big blow to the opposition. It has shattered all the facades of the opposition. This has effectively thrown the opposition’s claim, of Centre misusing the agencies, in the dustbin. It will also clear the hindrance in the path of Justice. This is a hard reality check for the opposition that the old days of Dilly dallying against corruption are over. The ED will now gain a renewed fervour and with incriminating evidence it will put the enemies of India behind bars, no matter how powerful the accused may be.
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