SC verdict upholding PMLA amendments dangerous: Opposition

They express ‘deep apprehensions’ about the long-term implications of the Supreme Court order

August 03, 2022 10:47 pm | Updated 10:47 pm IST - New Delhi

As many as 17 Opposition parties, including the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), issued a joint statement on Wednesday to express their “deep apprehensions” about the long-term implications of the Supreme Court order upholding the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) amendments.

In the statement, the parties said the top court’s judgment would strengthen the hands of a government that “indulges in political vendetta” to target its opponents in a “mischievous and malicious manner” and expressed the hope that this “dangerous verdict will be short-lived”.

On July 27, the top court upheld the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) powers relating to arrest, attachment of property, search and seizure under the PMLA.

The statement came a day after the ED conducted raids at the National Herald offices across multiple locations.

The ‘misuse’ of the ED was raised in both Houses of Parliament, with the Lok Sabha witnessing multiple disruptions over the issue.

“We place on record our deep apprehension on the long-term implications of the recent Supreme Court judgment upholding, in entirety, the amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, without examining whether some of these amendments could have been enacted by way of the Finance Act,” the statement read.

‘Highest respect’

Stating that the parties hold and will continue to hold “the Supreme Court in the highest respect,” the statement added, “Yet, we are compelled to point out that the judgment should have awaited the verdict of a larger Bench for examining the constitutionality of the Finance Act route to carry out amendments. These far-reaching amendments strengthened the hands of a government indulging in the political vendetta of the worst kind by using these very amended laws relating to money laundering and investigation agencies to target its political opponents in a mischievous and malicious manner”.

“We are also very disappointed that the highest judicial authority, invited to give an independent verdict on the lack of checks and balances in the Act, has virtually reproduced arguments given by the executive in support of draconian amendments. We hope that the dangerous verdict will be short-lived and constitutional provisions will prevail soon,” the opposition leaders said in their statement.

The Opposition argued that if in future the top court holds that the challenged amendments through the Finance Act are bad in law, the entire exercise would become futile and lose judicial time.

Among those who signed included Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge (Congress), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Ram Gopal Yadav (Samajwadi Party), Derek O’Brien (TMC), T.R. Baalu (DMK), Elamaram Kareem (CPI-M), Binoy Viswam (CPI), Narain Dass Gupta (AAP) and independent Rajya Sabha member Kapil Sibal.

Not allowed to speak

On Wednesday morning, Congress whip Manickam Tagore had given an adjournment notice in the Lok Sabha. When the House assembled for the day at 11 a.m., Opposition members protested over a range of issues, including the actions of the ED. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was seen asking party leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury to speak on some issue. Congress members as well as Mr. Baalu urged Speaker Om Birla to allow Mr. Chowdhury to speak but wasn’t allowed, leading to the House to be adjourned until noon. There were two more disruptions thereafter before the House started functioning.

In the Rajya Sabha, Mr. Kharge said he had given a notice under Rule 267 to suspend the business of the day and discuss the misuse of autonomous agencies such as the ED, the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Income Tax department. However, Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu did not allow.

Shiv Sena’s Priyanka Chaturvedi too raised the issue of arrest of colleague Sanjay Raut by the ED. “The Rajya Sabha is a Council of States. And what is happening in Maharashtra? A sitting Member of Parliament was arrested, detained by the Enforcement Directorate,” she said, adding that the Chair was also not apprised of the arrest.

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