Will see if 2022 PMLA verdict needs revisit: SC

Will see if 2022 PMLA verdict needs revisit: SC

One-liner: The Supreme Court said on Wednesday it will examine whether its 2022 verdict upholding the Enforcement Directorate's (ED) powers to arrest and attach property involved in money laundering under PMLA required any reconsideration.

Three-judge bench already addressed issue: A special bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul said the remit was "limited" as a three-judge bench had already addressed some issues related to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

  • "The issue now is whether anything requires reconsideration," said the bench, also comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Bela M Trivedi.

Objections raised by SG: The bench noted the objection raised by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, that an "academic exercise should not be carried out without there being substance and merely because someone approaches the court and wants the issue decided by a three-judge bench to be revisited. It should not be an occasion to revisit".

Pleas seeking reconsideration: The top court was hearing a batch of pleas seeking reconsideration of the July 27, 2022 verdict by a three-judge bench on certain parameters.

ED’s powers upheld last year:  In its last year's verdict, the top court had upheld the ED's powers of arrest, attachment of property involved in money laundering, search and seizure under the PMLA.

Misuse and abuse objected: During the hearing on Wednesday, Mehta deprecated reconsideration of the 2022 verdict. "I am on the misuse and abuse of process of law," he said.

Revisit after hearing parties: The bench told him that after hearing the parties if it felt there was no need for reconsideration on any aspect, it may not revisit the verdict.

Larger bench: The bench spoke about how matters are referred to larger benches for reconsideration.

  • "If three judges feel some aspect requires reconsideration, we may refer it," it said.
  • "Can one file a petition tomorrow and say I don't agree with the same-sex marriage judgement? Can it be referred to a larger bench?" Mehta asked.

PMLA is not a standalone offence: He said PMLA is not a "standalone offence" but a piece of legislation prepared in conformity with the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force. FATF is the global money laundering and terrorist financing watchdog.

FATF evaluation: Mehta said FATF conducts mutual evaluation and seven members from different countries come and see if the anti-money laundering law is in tune with global standards. He said a country is graded after evaluation.

Await evaluation:  "Your lordships may await the evaluation otherwise there may be serious implications for the country," Mehta said, adding, "It may be in the national interest to wait for a month".

Petitioner can challenge three-judge verdict: He also asked whether a petitioner can approach a three-judge bench and challenge the same provisions on which another three-judge bench has already delivered a verdict.

  • "We are the final court. If there is a view taken and somebody says it may be reconsidered, it can be looked into," the bench said, adding, "We are not at all assuming that the judgement is not correct."

ED summons: Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for one of the petitioners, said another issue was when a person is summoned by the Enforcement Directorate, it is not known whether he or she has been summoned as an accused or as a witness.

Statute not in line with Constitution: He asserted the statute is not in consonance with the Constitution.

Matter to be heard on Nov 22: The bench posted the matter for hearing on November 22 and said counsel for the parties may file short synopses of five pages each.

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