Active agent: On Nawab Malik arrest

Maharashtra’s Minister of Minority Affairs and Skill Development and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Nawab Malik is the second Minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) alliance to be arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The case against Mr. Malik pertains to a transaction in 1999 in which a property was sold to one of the companies belonging to him for a price ostensibly much lower than its actual worth. The Additional Solicitor General alleged that there was enough evidence to make a case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The ED has also alleged that the property sale was done by an individual, Salim Patel, an associate for Dawood Ibrahim’s sister Haseena Parkar, since deceased. Mr. Malik’s advocate has argued that the power of attorney for the property sale was made in 1999, much before the PMLA came into force and that there is no retrospective action in criminal law. It should be noted that Mr. Malik has been vocal in his criticism of agencies such as the Narcotics Control Bureau and the way they have conducted investigations against individuals in Mumbai. Unlike the case with former Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, who resigned after his arrest last year, the NCP and its chief Sharad Pawar have ruled out Mr. Malik’s resignation alleging that this is an attempt by the BJP to destabilise the MVA government. It is for the courts to find if there is merit in the ED’s case against Mr. Malik. It has to do so quickly, as this has become yet another political slugfest between the ruling coalition and the BJP. 

But there have been several instances where the PMLA has been used by the government at the Centre as a weapon to target politicians from the opposition, their relatives, and activists recently. The PMLA was enacted in 2002 in line with India’s global commitment to combat money laundering, particularly related to crimes involving drugs and narcotics. But as petitions filed in the Supreme Court against the draconian use of the Act have pointed out, the ED conducted 1,700 raids and investigations in 1,569 cases in the last decade (2011-20) but could obtain convictions in only nine cases. This suggests that the agency is using the offences scheduled in the PMLA in an overbroad sense without limiting itself to the chief purpose of the Act. Meanwhile, as the petitioners in the case against the PMLA’s use have argued in the Supreme Court, taking recourse to the Act should not be “arbitrary, vague and fanciful” and the Court must weigh in whether the near blanket powers given to the ED for search, seizure and attachment of assets in several cases are justifiable.

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Printable version | Aug 6, 2022 7:09:58 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/active-agent-the-hindu-editorial-on-nawab-malik-arrest/article65081360.ece