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Delhi HC seeks ED reply on maintainability of Vadra's plea for quashing of PMLA case

twitter-logoPTI | March 25, 2019 | Updated 13:52 IST

(Eds: Adding details, background) New Delhi, Mar 25 (PTI) The Delhi High Court Monday sought Enforcement Directorate's response on maintainability of Robert Vadra's petition seeking quashing of a money laundering case in which he was questioned by the probe agency. ED raised objection on the plea of Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, saying that there has been wilful suppression of facts and no relief be granted to him. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED and the Centre, said that Vadra's petition is not maintainable and it is an abuse of the process of law. A bench of justices Hima Kohli and Vinod Goel asked the probe agency to file an affidavit regrading the maintainability of two separate but similar petitions by Vadra and his close aide Manoj Arora within two weeks. The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 2. The ED case relates to allegations of money laundering in purchase of a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square, worth 1.9 million pounds. The property is allegedly owned by Vadra. Vadra, represented by senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, has also sought that various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, be declared unconstitutional. During the hearing, the court was informed that pleas by Vadra and Arora seeking anticipatory bail is listed for hearing at 2 PM today before a trail court here. The high court said the special CBI judge will be at liberty to hear the arguments on the anticipatory bail and pass order "uninfluenced" by the petition pending here. On being asked by the bench whether there is any interim protection to Vadra and Arora, it was informed that both of them have been granted interim protection from arrest by the trial court. ED, also represented by advocates D P Singh and Amit Mahajan, said Vadra has not approached the court with clean hands and there is suppression of material facts by him. Vadra has sought in his plea that Sections 3 (offence of money laundering), 17 (search and seizure), 19 (power to arrest), 24 (burden of proof), 44 (offences triable by special courts) and 50 (powers of authorities regarding summons, production of documents and to give evidence, etc) of the PMLA be declared ultra vires or unconstitutional. Vadra had said in his petition that while it is permissible for the investigating agencies to conduct further probe, the sweeping investigation power does not warrant subjecting a citizen each time to a fresh investigation in respect of the same incident giving rise to one or more cognisable offences. The plea had said that multiple investigations have been held in "abuse of statutory power of investigation and therefore second or successive FIRs filed in connection with the same or connected cognisable offence alleged to have been committed in the course of the same transaction pursuant to the first FIR is liable to be quashed". The petition had added that despite the investigation in the land deals in Rajasthan and Haryana by various probe agencies, nothing was found against Vadra and his firms. "However, in order to harass and humiliate the petitioner, another ECIR (enforcement case information report) was registered into the same deals. It was in this wake of the matter that Rajasthan High Court directed that no coercive steps will be taken against the petitioner (Vadra)," the petition had said. It had said, "another ECIR was registered with regard to the same assets in India and abroad which were subject matter of the FIRs and earlier ECIR registered by the Respondent (ED) at Jaipur. The investigation into the subject ECIR also was to be done on the basis of same documents which had already been supplied." The plea had said it is a gross violation of his rights since "he is being compelled to take part in criminal proceedings without being informed of the...crimes they are alleged to have committed". Regarding section 19 (power to arrest) of the PMLA, Vadra had said the provision cannot be construed or exercised as if it were an unbridled power without any restrictions or safeguards. It can only be exercised after a complaint is made under Section 45 of PMLA and cognisance of the same taken by the magistrate. "That the same provisions challenged in the above grounds constitute the main operative parts of the Act and hence this makes the entire Act liable to be struck down on the grounds of being unconstitutional. The application of the doctrine of severability is precluded since rest of the PMLA is rendered useless if the charging sections, namely section 3, 17, 19, 24, 44 and 50 are illegal," the plea had said. PTI SKV HMP LLP SA

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