The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre on a plea filed by Congress leader Karti Chidambaram seeking a review of last month’s Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) ruling by a bench led by Justice Khanwilkar. The top court agreed to reconsider the PMLA judgment on two aspects — that the Enforcement Directorate doesn’t need to provide the case information copy (ECIR) to the accused, and the accused has to prove innocence while the probe agency need not prove guilt.
“These are the two issues prima facie we found need to be considered,” a Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice NV Ramana said.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, opposed the overall reconsideration of the PMLA judgment saying notice should be issued on the two limited points.
Senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, appearing for the petitioner, had asked for the reconsideration of the overall judgement.
Other expanded powers of the central probe agency under the PMLA that are not under review are — special powers to arrest, seize, and search without a warrant, statements made during interrogation admissible as evidence in court, and that the PMLA can be applied retrospectively.
The top court had last month in a big decision upheld almost all the stringent provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in proceeds of crime, search and seizure, power of arrest, attachment of properties, and bail, which were under challenge in the court.
Petitioners had then argued that unchecked power to arrest the accused without informing them of grounds of arrest or evidence is unconstitutional. The supply of ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) copy in every case is not mandatory as it is an internal document, the top court had said, rejecting the petitioners’ challenge that it is similar to an FIR and the accused is entitled to a copy of the ECIR.
On the petitioners’ argument that putting the burden of proof on the accused violates fundamental rights like the right to equality and the right to life, the Centre had said that owing to the serious nature of the money laundering offences and the societal need to curb it, putting the burden of proof on the accused is justified.
The Supreme Court has today put these two specific aspects under review and issued notice to the Centre.