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Review Petition on PMLA Judgement: SC Issues Notice to Centre

Not providing ECIR, reversal of presumption of innocence need relook, says apex court. Matter listed after 4 weeks.
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New Delhi: Agreeing to examine a petition seeking a review of its PMLA verdict on July 27, that upheld sweeping powers to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), including those relating to arrest, the Supreme Court on Monday sought a response from the Centre on the issue.

The notice was limited to two specific issues in the review petition challenging the top court's verdict upholding the validity of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the Karti Chidambaram vs ED case, according to a report in Bar & Bench, which need to be reconsidered. 

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) NV Ramana with Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and CT Ravikumar said that the two aspects highlighted are not providing the accused with a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and reversal of the presumption of innocence.

The apex court had on Wednesday allowed an application of Congress MP Karti Chidambaram seeking an open court hearing of his petition to review the top court's last month's verdict upholding the sweeping powers of the ED relating to arrest, investigation, and attachment of property under the PMLA Act.

The CJI said that while the bench was completely in support of the prevention of black money or money laundering, the “Object is noble. (But) no providing of ECIR and reversal of presumption of innocence which are two issues which need reconsideration as per us.” The Court also said that it would issue a notice and let the Central government respond.

Opposing the plea, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta said the "error in judgment cannot be a ground of review. This is not a standalone provision and we are part of the larger global structure and Supreme Court held it is in tune with the international and constitutional scheme.” He also warned the court that this would have global repercussions.

The Court then issued notice to the Central government and ordered that interim protection granted to accused petitioners would stand extended for four weeks.

"List after 4 weeks and place before the CJI," the Court ordered, according to Bar & Bench.

July 27 Verdict

The July 27 judgment of the SC, the last one delivered by Justice A M Khanvilkar before his retirement, was termed by many in the legal fraternity as denuding the fundamental right to liberty under Article 21 of the Constitution.

In the judgement, Khanvilkar had empowered the ED to make arrests, conduct search and seizures and attach proceeds of crime.

The judgement had also held that Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) cannot be equated with First Information Report (FIR) as ECIR is an internal document of ED and ED officers are not police officers.

The Court had also 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 special court), 45 (offences being cognizable and non-bailable and twin conditions for grant of bail by court) and 50 (statements made to ED officials), according to Bar & Bench.

However, the Court had held that the question of enactment of amendments in 2019 to the PMLA Act as a money Bill has to be decided by a larger bench of seven judges before whom the same question is already pending.

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