By Our Editorial Team
First publised on 2022-07-29 08:38:50
The Supreme Court verdict on the PMLA can be seen as a licence to the executive to bypass rule of law and due process to do whatever it pleases by using the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to move against citizens suspected of indulging in money laundering. By upholding the constitutional validity of all the stringent provisions of PMLA (in contrast to the 2017 verdict which had found the restrictive bail conditions in PMLA to be unconstitutional), the court has put the stamp of approval on a law that is full of arbitrary powers granted to officials of investigating agencies and which presumes guilt over innocence, even before it is proved, and puts the onus on the charged party to prove his or her innocence.
The reason the court gave to find the provisions of the PMLA constitutionally valid - that money laundering is no less heinous than terrorism as it can cause havoc in the economy and can lead to other, more serious crimes like terror funding through the proceeds of crime - although valid cannot be the so overpowering as to ignore rule of law and due process and leave the citizen at the mercy of the government. The courts have the right and the duty to protect the rights of the individual by putting reasonable restrictions on the sweeping powers given to prosecutors under the PMLA and other such draconian laws.
But the present verdict allows ED to arrest citizens without supplying them with the ECIR and by just stating the reason of arrest, makes the bail condition so restrictive that the accused must prove his innocence to get bail and allows the statements made before ED officials to be used as evidence in a court of law. This means that a person arrested by the agency under PMLA has no recourse and must wait for the ED to fail to prove his or her guilt before he or she can hope to be free. This goes against all principles of law.