SC judgment on money-laundering act provisions: What is PMLA and its norms?

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Wednesday upheld the twin conditions for bail under amended Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, and asserted that money laundering is a heinous crime.
“Money-laundering is one of the heinous crimes, which not only affects the social and economic fabric of the nation, but also tends to promote other heinous offences, such as terrorism, offences related to NDPS Act,” the top said, adding it is not mandatory to give an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in every case to accused.

Here’s a look at the act and its conditions:
What is PMLA?
According to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the PMLA is an “Act to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property”.
What is the offence of money-laundering?
A person is guilty of money-laundering if he or she “directly or indirectly attempts to indulge or knowingly assists” in any activity connected with the “proceeds of crime”, including its concealment, possession, acquisition or use, projecting or claiming it as untainted property.
It has been clarified that the activity connected with proceeds of crime continues till a person is directly or indirectly enjoying them by concealment, possession, acquisition, use or projecting or claiming them as untainted property.
What is the punishment for money-laundering?
According to the act, the guilty “shall be punishable with rigorous imprisonment for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend to seven years”, besides a fine.
What are the norms for arrest?
According to the act, senior officials, authorised by the central government, may arrest a person if they have, on the basis of material in their possession, “reason to believe” (to be recorded in writing) that he or she has been guilty of an offence punishable under PMLA. The officials, however, have to inform the accused of the grounds for such arrest “as soon as may be”.
The senior officials of the ranks of director, deputy director, assistant director or any other will have to forward a copy of the order along with the material in their possession to the Adjudicating Authority in a sealed envelope immediately after the arrest.
Also, every person arrested will have to be taken to a Special Court or Judicial Magistrate or a Metropolitan Magistrate, depending on jurisdiction, within 24 hours (excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court).
The apex court, however, said on Wednesday that it is not mandatory for the ED to disclose the grounds of arrest at the time of detaining an accused in a money-laundering case. “It is enough if Enforcement Directorate, at time of arrest, discloses grounds for such arrest,” the SC said.
The apex court also said the ECIR, an internal document of the ED, cannot be equated with FIR. “The supply of ECIR to the accused is not mandatory and only disclosure of reasons during the arrest is enough,” said the SC.
What are the provision of bail under the act?
Delivering its verdict on a batch of around 250 petitions by various accused concerning the interpretation of certain provisions of the PMLA, the apex court said on Wednesday that stringent conditions for bail under the act is legal and not arbitrary.
According to PMLA Section 45, there are two conditions that must be satisfied for a court to grant bail. First, the public prosecutor must be heard and second, the court must be satisfied that there are reasonable grounds that the accused is not guilty of the alleged offence.
“In these cases, the ED has to ascertain where the laundered money has been parked. If the accused cooperates, he can still be granted bail on the discretion of the judge,” said criminal lawyer Jayanta Narayan Chatterjee.
The law has faced several criticisms, which include non-reporting of grounds for arrest, arrest of persons without ECIR copy, strict bail conditions etc.

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