SC agrees to list petition for review of the judgment that upheld PMLA amendments

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The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to list a petition seeking a review of a July 27 judgment that upheld the core amendments made to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which gives the government and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) virtually unbridled powers of summons, arrest, and raids, and makes bail nearly impossible, while shifting the burden of proof of innocence onto the accused rather than the prosecution.

The review petition was orally mentioned before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana.

The apex court had called the PMLA a law against the “scourge of money laundering” and not a hatchet wielded against rival politicians and dissenters.

“This is a sui generis (unique) legislation… The Parliament enacted the Act as a result of international commitment to sternly deal with the menace of money laundering of proceeds of crime having transnational consequences and on the financial systems of the countries,” a Special Bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar (now retired), Dinesh Maheshwari, and C.T. Ravikumar observed in the 545-page judgment.

The verdict had come on an extensive challenge raised against the amendments introduced to the 2002 Act by way of a Finance Act in 2019. The three-judge Bench said the method of introduction of the amendments through a Money Bill would be separately examined by a larger Bench of the apex court.

Over 240 petitions were filed against the amendments which the challengers claimed to violate personal liberty, procedures of law, and the constitutional mandate. Some of the petitioners included former Chief Minister of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti; former Maharashtra Minister Anil Deshmukh; and MP Karti Chidambaram, who all claimed that the “process itself was the punishment”.

“Money laundering is an offence against the sovereignty and integrity of the country,” the court noted.

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