The stringent anti-money laundering law, which was recently approved by the Supreme Court, will be revisited, with the high court agreeing to hear a petition challenging the judgement. The hearing will take place today.
Last month, the court upheld the Enforcement Directorate’s broad powers to search, seize, and arrest, which had been challenged in multiple petitions. The petitioners contended that these powers were frequently abused, particularly when opposition leaders were involved.
The 250-odd petitioners had also argued that handing an agency unchecked powers of arrest where the accused may not be informed about reason or evidence, is unconstitutional. They also contended that the use of statements in court recorded during questioning should not be allowed, since such statements can also be extracted under duress.
The court held that the Enforcement Directorate is “not required to share the ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) copy” with the accused. This document, the court said, cannot be equated with an FIR (First Information Report).
“It is enough if Enforcement Directorate, at time of arrest, discloses grounds of such arrest,” the judges had said.
Declaring that the ED’s power of arrest is not arbitrary, the court said money laundering not only affects the nation’s social and economic fabric but also tends to promote other heinous crimes including terrorism.
The top court’s judgment was challenged by Congress’s Karti Chidambaram, the son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, who has sought a stay on it. The ED is investigating an alleged money laundering case in which he has been named.
A favourable verdict was likely to affect a huge number of opposition leaders – including Congress’s Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and Trinamool Congress’s Partha Chatterjee — who are under the scanner of the Central investigating agency.
With many opposition leaders under the ED scanner over the anti-money laundering laws, the opposition has repeatedly accused the Centre of misusing Central agencies to fulfill a political vendetta.