The Delhi High Court on Wednesday allowed former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti to withdraw her plea challenging the constitutional validity of a provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
Ms Mufti, in her petition filed in March 2021, had also challenged the summons issued to her by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case and sought a stay. The high court had, however, declined to stay the summons issued to the PDP leader.
Her petition had challenged Section 50 of the PMLA, which gives powers to authorities regarding summons, production of documents and to give evidence. She had sought to declare section 50 of the PMLA void and inoperative, being unfairly discriminatory, bereft of safeguards, and violative of the Constitution.
In her petition, Ms Mufti claimed that ever since she was released from preventive detention following the formal abrogation of Article 370, she has been facing a series of “hostile acts by the State”. She had alleged the ED of conducting a “roving inquiry about her personal, political and financial affairs”. She also pointed out her acquaintances and old family friends, have also been summoned by the agency.
In August this year, the Supreme Court prima facie agreed to re-consider two aspects of the PMLA upheld by its judgment on July 27, which deprives an accused a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and transfers the burden of proof of innocence onto shoulders of the accused instead of the prosecution.
The July 27 judgment authored by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar had found no reason for the Enforcement Directorate, the prosecuting agency under the PMLA, to share the ECIR with an accused. On the issue of burden of proof resting on the accused, Justice Khanwilkar had said the provision did not suffer from the “vice of arbitrariness or unreasonableness”.
Nearly 100 petitions had flooded the Supreme Court even as the frequency and timings of ED’s raids and arrests under the PMLA had gained pace all over the country. The petitions had questioned the almost blanket powers given to the ED for search, seizure, investigation and attachment of assets considered to be the proceeds of crimes listed under PMLA.
The petitioners had argued that the process was itself the punishment, adding that the assets of genuine victims were attached.