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ED action in money laundering cases not arbitrary: SC

New Delhi, July 27 (UNI): The Supreme Court on Wednesday affirmed that the Enforcement Directorate’s power of inquiry, arrest, attachment of property and twin bail conditions after hearing petitions challenging the constitutionality of several provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

“The arguments of proportionality of punishment regarding scheduled offences is unfounded and rejected. All transfer petition are disposed off and relegated to the High Court,” the bench led by Justice A M Khanwilkar said in its verdict.

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The judgment is significant as it addresses several issues concerning investigative powers, witness summoning, arrests and seizures made by the ED and comes at a crucial juncture with several Opposition lawmakers including Congress’ Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi being probed under the PMLA.

Upholding the validity of various provisions of PMLA, the Supreme Court today in its judgment said stringent conditions for bail under the Act is legal and not arbitrary.

The court also made it clear that it is not mandatory for ED officers to disclose the ground of arrest at the time of detaining an accused in money laundering case. The top court delivered its verdict on a batch of petitions challenging the process of arrest, investigation, seizure carried out by the probe agency, ED, and seeking interpretation of provisions of the PMLA.

A three-judge bench led by Justice Khanwilkar delivered the verdict after an extensive hearing for around two months.

Several petitions have been filed before the Supreme Court challenging the provisions of the PMLA. The petitioners had argued before the apex court that the powers of the enforcement agency to arrest, force confessions, and seize property were greatly unchecked.

The petitions claimed that some provisions in the Act are unconstitutional, put a reverse burden on accused, give inspectors wide powers to arrest, and take away the right to silence.

The Centre, on the other hand, vehemently opposed the batch of petitions and sought dismissal.

The Centre has defended the PMLA, and stated that it is a special law which has laid down its own procedures and safeguards.

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