Centre defends in SC PMLA provision relating to power to arrest

Government told the apex court that nothing is “kept confidential” from the concerned court

March 08, 2022 05:55 pm | Updated 05:55 pm IST - New Delhi

A view of Supreme Court of India.

A view of Supreme Court of India. | Photo Credit: Sushil Kumar Verma

The Centre Tuesday defended in the Supreme Court the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) provision relating to power to arrest saying adequate “safeguards” are provided in it and relevant records, including grounds for arrest and the material on the basis of which the conclusion has been arrived at, are placed before the concerned court for its perusal.

The government told the apex court, which is hearing arguments on a batch of petitions concerning the interpretation of certain provisions of the PMLA, that nothing is “kept confidential” from the concerned court.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told a bench headed by Justice A. M. Khanwilkar that no provision can be quashed merely because it deviates from the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).

“Please see how many safeguards are provided in section 19 [of the PMLA],” Mr. Mehta told the bench, also comprising Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and C. T. Ravikumar, while referring to Section 19.

Section 19 of the PMLA deals with the aspect of power to arrest.

The solicitor general told the bench that validity of Section 19 of the PMLA has been challenged in the matter on the ground that it allegedly violates Articles 14 (equality before law) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution.

“No provision can be quashed merely because it deviates from the CrPC. It [provision] has to be Constitution compliant,” he said.

Referring to the Section, Mr. Mehta said only higher officials are empowered with the power to arrest and every arrested person has to be produced before the court within 24 hours.

He said there are adequate “safeguards which guard the provision against any attack on the ground of violation of Article 14 and 21.”

“The whole purpose of arrest is to illicit whatever information, which you have, by custodial interrogation,” the bench observed. During the day-long hearing, Mehta argued that nothing is kept confidential from the concerned court from the first day and entire record is placed before it.

“Not only the reasons for arrest and grounds for arrest, the material on the basis of which one has reached that conclusion is placed before the special judge along with other materials,” he said, adding that money laundering is an serious offence.

Mehta said elaborate reasoning for arresting an accused is also placed before the court.

The arguments in the matter will continue on Wednesday.

The Centre had last week defended the PMLA provisions saying if a person “knowingly” becomes a party or is actually involved in any activity connected with the proceeds of crime, then such an individual is prima facie guilty of the offence of money laundering.

Mehta had said that non-demarcation of the offence of money laundering either as “cognizable” or “non-cognizable” in the PMLA and authorising the authorities to arrest under Section 19 of the Act has a purpose to achieve.

He had said because of the very nature of the offence of money laundering and the potential of the accused to remove even the traces of offence to frustrate the investigation, the legislature has “consciously avoided either provision of registering FIR, supply the FIR to the magistrate and requiring the authorities to obtain a warrant before effecting the arrest.”

The Centre had earlier told the apex court that 4,850 cases have been taken up for investigation under the PMLA in the last 17 years and proceeds of crime of Rs 98,368 crore were identified and attached under the provision of the law.

The government had told the bench that investigation in these offences was carried out under the PMLA, including 2,883 searches.

The solicitor general had said that out of the ₹98,368 crore which were identified and attached, proceeds of crime of ₹55,899 crore have been confirmed by the adjudicating authority.

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