At least 17 opposition parties have labeled the recent Supreme Court ruling confirming changes made in 2019 to the Money Laundering Prevention Act (PMLA) as “dangerous”, giving authorities such as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) more powers .
“We hope that the dangerous verdict will be short-lived and that the constitutional provisions will soon prevail,” reads the statement, signed by representatives of Congress, Trinamool Congress, DMK, Aam Aadmi Party, CPI(M), Samajwadi Party and the RJD. , among other things.
The Supreme Court on July 27 affirmed the validity of a wide range of powers granted to the ED under the amended law, which had been challenged by nearly 250 petitions. The court rejected the main arguments that the powers of arrest and an ambiguous definition of “proceeds of crime” could be abused.
17 Opposition parties, including TMC & AAP, plus one independent Rajya Sabha MP, have signed a joint statement expressing deep concern about the long-term implications of the recent Supreme Court ruling confirming amendments to PMLA, 2002, and called for review of it. The explanation: pic.twitter.com/vmhtxRHAnl
— Jairam Ramesh (@Jairam_Ramesh) August 3, 2022
Some opposition parties have already said – with alleged political vendetta over abuse of the law – that they will again go to the Supreme Court to seek a review. They also cite that there have been very few convictions under the law.
In the eight years that Narendra Modi’s government has stood so far, the number of ED raids is 26 times higher than in the previous government, but the number of convictions is extremely low. According to data shared by the Ministry of Finance in the Rajya Sabha, only 23 suspects have been convicted in 3,010 money laundering-related searches. There were no convictions for money laundering in 112 of these searches.
Vendetta allegations echoed recently when Congressional Gandhis were questioned by the ED in a case related to the National Herald publication.
Furthermore, the opposition has questioned how these amendments have been passed in parliament – and that question is already with the Supreme Court. The statement pointed out that these were passed under the Finance Act introduced as a “Money Bill”.
The Money Bill route meant that the new provisions only needed an agreement from the Lok Sabha, before being sent to the president for a final nod. It could not be rejected by the Rajya Sabha, the upper house, where the government did not have the figures for a foolproof approval.
“If tomorrow the Supreme Court rules that the challenged amendments through the Finance Act are against the law,” the opposition said, “then the whole exercise would be pointless and a waste of time for the judge.”
The opposition’s larger argument is that a money law essentially governs the appropriation of money from the consolidated fund and taxes, and cannot be used to legislate on other matters.
“We hold our Supreme Court in the highest respect, and always will. Still, we are compelled to point out that the verdict should have waited for the ruling of a larger bank to examine the constitutionality of the Finance Act pathway to changes,” it added.
“These sweeping changes have strengthened the hands of a government indulging in political vendettas of the worst kind,” it said. “We are also very disappointed that the supreme judicial authority… has virtually adopted the executive’s arguments in support of draconian amendments.”
However, the court said when issuing the verdict last week: “Money laundering not only erodes the social and economic fabric of the nation, but also promotes other heinous crimes such as terrorism, crimes related to (narcotics) drugs. “
It rejected the argument that the power to arrest without informing the accused through a copy of the trial record is unconstitutional. The court said that providing ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) is not mandatory in all cases, as it is an internal document. it rejected the petitioners’ objection that it is comparable to an FIR and that the accused is entitled to a copy. The court found it sufficient if, at the time of arrest, the ED tells the suspect the reasons for the action.
The petitioners had also challenged to place the burden of proof on the accused, as this violates fundamental rights. But the court disagreed. The national government had said that the burden of proof for the suspect is justified, as money laundering crimes are serious and there is a social need to limit them.