As the name suggests, The Prevention of Money-Laundering Act (“PMLA”), 2002 is an Act to prevent money-laundering and to provide for confiscation of property derived from, or involved in, money-laundering and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. The essence of the statute in creating economic security has resulted in wide powers being granted to the Enforcement Directorate (“ED”). A number of judgements have been passed which have dealt with the procedural and substantive aspects of the law, one such recent case being Rajeev Sharma v. Directorate of Enforcement a part of which has discussed the relationship between predicate offences and offences under PMLA.
PREDICATE OFFENCES AND PMLA
In the present case, Rajeev Sharma was arrested by Delhi Police under the Official Secrets Act, 1923 on the ground that he supplied confidential and sensitive information to Chinese intelligence officers, in exchange for remuneration. However, he was subsequently released on default bail. Later, Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) was registered on the basis of the same offences under Official Secrets Act and he was arrested again. The Court held that offences punishable under Official Secrets Act were not scheduled offences under PMLA, thus, ECIR registered by the respondent and arrest made pursuant to it was without any jurisdiction. The question which arises at the present moment is whether investigation by the ED can continue if the predicate offence (scheduled offences) has ceased to exist.
Section 44 of the PMLA which deals with offences triable by Special Courts was amended vide the Finance Act 2019 to include the following explainantion:
“For the removal of doubts, it is clarified that, –
the jurisdiction of the Special Court while dealing with the offence under this Act, during investigation, enquiry or trial under this Act, shall not be dependent upon any orders passed in respect of the scheduled offence, and the trial of both sets of offences by the same court shall not be construed as joint trial;
the complaint shall be deemed to include any subsequent complaint in respect of further investigation that may be conducted to bring any further evidence, oral or documentary, against any accused person involved in respect of the offence, for which complaint has already been filed, whether named in the original complaint or not.”
Thus, it is clear from the above explanation that the trial of the scheduled offence is independent of the trial conducted by the Special court under PMLA. The High Court of Madras, however, has stated in VGN Developers P. Ltd. & Ors. vs. The Deputy Director, Directorate of Enforcement that the amendment is merely clarificatory in nature, and therefore will apply to trials that have already begun before the amendment takes effect. This judgement goes against the well-established legal norm that criminal laws cannot be amended retroactively.
In Babulal Verma & Ors. v. Enforcement Directorate & Ors., the High Court of Bombay has given a rather contradictory ruling an offence under PMLA merely requires registration of a scheduled offence. It is irrelevant whether the scheduled offence is compromised, compounded, quashed or the accused therein is acquitted as the investigation by the ED under the PMLA will not be affected and will continue. In P. Chidamabaram vs. Directorate of Enforcement, the Supreme Court has held that a scheduled offence is a sine qua non for the offence of money laundering which would generate the money that is being laundered.
While relying on Radha Mohan Lakhotia vs. The Deputy Director, PMLA, Department of Revenue, the Bombay High Court in Babulal Verma (supra)held that an investigation into the offence of money laundering under Section 3, PMLA is not dependent upon the ultimate result of the scheduled offence and in fact, it is a totally independent investigation. On a strict interpretation of Sections 3 and 4, it can be deduced that the person against whom the ED investigation is ongoing need not necessarily be charged of having committed a scheduled offence. In fact, a scheduled offence is only needed for the registration of the ECIR, and the ultimate result of the investigation of the scheduled offence cannot have bearing on the proceedings under the PMLA. Furthermore, the 2019 amendment to Section 44(1)(d) of the PMLA adds an explanation to the effect that the criminal courts’ trial of the predicate offence is completely separate from the special court’s trial of the money laundering offence.
At the outset, the legal principle that an offence under PMLA does not require the support of a predicate offence may be viewed as contradictory to the settled view on the subject. While the Supreme Court has expressly stated in P. Chidambaram (supra) that a predicate offence is sine non qua for an investigation by the ED, the Bombay High Court in Babulal has interpreted the same to mean that mere registration of the predicate offence is necessary and nothing more. However, the Delhi High Court in Rajeev Sharma did grant bail to the accused even when the charge sheet filed in the predicate offence was under the Official Secrets Act read with Section 120B of IPC which is a scheduled offence under PMLA. The Court was of the opinion that Section 120B was not involved substantively and that it would be for the Trial Court to decide the involvement of Section 120B in the matter.
Several other High Courts have taken the view that if an ECIR has been registered based on a predicate offence which has ceased to exist by any reason whatsoever, it would also lead to the ECIR being infructuous and thus the investigation by ED would come to an end. The Karnataka High Court in M/S Obulapuram Mining Company Pvt. Ltd. vs. Joint Director, Directorate of Enforcement held that the ECIR will not be maintainable since of the offences of the accused did not fall under Schedule A of the PMLA. Moreover, the Delhi High Court in Rajiv Chanana v. Dy. Director of Enforcement has held that when an accused is acquitted of the charge brought under the predicate offence, that in itself takes away the very basis of the offence of money laundering. Thus, it is clear by the above judgements that the Courts have time and again taken the view that predicate offence is necessary for an investigation to take place by the ED; this is based on the legal principle that once the foundation of the matter is removed, the structure built thereupon must fall.
In the matter of Rajeev Sharma, it is clear that a new offence (Section 411) came to light only during the course of arguments before the Delhi High Court; the same was not present either in the charge sheet filed by the Special Cell or in the complaint filed by the Trial Court. In Arun Kumar Mishra vs Directorate of Enforcement, wherein the ECIR was lodged by the ED based on two FIRs, and while a closure report was filed in one and the petitioner was exonerated in another, a third FIR was lodged by the SIT, UP Police against the Petitioner with respect to a potential money laundering angle. The Delhi High Court, while quashing the ECIR based on the first two FIRs, observed that if an investigation into the third FIR establishes the offence of money laundering, the ED would be at a liberty to initiate fresh proceedings against the petitioner.
The main object of the PML Act is to prevent money-laundering and confiscate the proceeds of crime. In that light, there exists an indissoluble link between the PML Act and the occurrence of a crime. Although it cannot be disputed that the offence of money-laundering is treated as an offence under Section 3, which is punishable under Section 4, the offence of money-laundering relates to the proceeds of crime, the genesis of which is a scheduled offence. The irresistible conclusion flowing from the statutory scheme, therefore, is that the offence of money laundering cannot be an independent offence.
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TELANGANA HIGH COURT: PLACE OF RESIDENCE OF THE ARBITRATOR WOULD NOT BE THE SEAT OF ARBITRATION
The High Court of Telangana in the case M/s S. Square Infra v. Garneni Chalapathi Rao observed and held that the place of residence of the arbitrator would not determine the seat of arbitration.
The Single bench comprising of Justice P. Sree Sudha observed and held that merely because an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad has been appointed, it does not mean that only the Courts at Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration agreement.
Facts of the Case:
In the present case, after the dispute arouse between the parties, the respondent sent a letter to the petitioner for nomination an arbitrator who is residing in Hyderabad. To its said notice, petitioner replied and declined the appointment of the arbitrator for the reason that there was no dispute which required the appointment of an arbitrator.
A suit was filled by the respondent before the VII Additional District Judge Sangareddy, seeking for relief of permanent injunction. An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act and the parties referred to the arbitration.
An application was filled by the respondent under section 9 of the Arbitration & Conciliation Act before the Principal District Judge, Sangareddy, Subsequently, an application was filled by the petitioner for transferring the application from the Court at Sangareddy to Court at Hyderabad.
Contentions made by Parties:
On the following grounds, the petitioner sought the transfer of application.
An arbitrator residing in Hyderabad was nominated to respondent. However, only the courts in Hyderabad would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of the arbitration.
It was stated that the nomination of an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad amounted to designating Hyderabad as the Seat of Arbitration.
On the following grounds, the respondent countered the submissions of the petitioner:
An application was filled by the petitioner under Section 8 of the A&C Act before the Court at Sangareddy. However, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act, only the court at Sangareddy would have the jurisdiction to decide all the matters arising out of arbitration.
The Court held that the seat of arbitration would not be decide by the place of residence of the arbitrator.
The argument of the petitioner was rejected by the court that since the respondent had initially nominated an arbitrator residing in Hyderabad, the Hyderabad Court would have the jurisdiction.
The court stated that merely because a party has nominated an arbitrator who resides in Hyderabad, the same would not designate Hyderabad as the Seat of arbitration in absence of any designation of the seat under the arbitration agreement.
It was further stated by the court that the application filled by the petitioner filled under Section 8 application before the Court at Sangareddy consequent to which the parties were referred to arbitration. Therefore, the Court would have the jurisdiction, in terms of Section 42 of the A&C Act.
The Transfer petition was dismissed by the Court.
DELHI HIGH COURT REMANDS IN THE MATTER BACK TO ASSESSING OFFICER AFTER SETTING ASIDE: JUST 3 DAYS’ TIME GRANTED TO RESPOND TO THE INCOME TAX NOTICE
The Delhi High Court in the case Shubham Thakral Vs ITO, the Delhi bench comprising of Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora observed and remanded the matter back to the assessing officer as just 3 days’ time was granted to respond to the income tax notice.
In the present case, the petitioner/assessee assailed the notice under Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act, 1961 and the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018–19.
It was contended by the assessee that only three days’ time was granted to the assessee to respond, as against the mandatory statutory period of at least seven days. However, despite of the fact that the annexure attached to the notice gave the petitioner eight days to respond, the e-filing submission portal was closed earlier, in violation of Section 148A (b) of the Income Tax Act.
Furthermore, the petitioner relied on the decision of Delhi High Court, in the case of Shri Sai Co-operative Thrift and Credit Society Ltd versus ITO, the Delhi High Court in the case held that under Section 148A (b), a minimum time of seven days has to be granted to the assessee to file its reply to the show cause notice.
No objections were raised by the department/respondent to the matter being returned to the Assessing Officer for a fresh decision in accordance with the law. Accordingly, the court set aside the order passed under Section 148A (d) for the Assessment Year 2018-19. The Assessing officer was directed by the court to pass a fresh reasoned order in accordance with the law after considering the reply of the petitioner, which was directed to be filed within a week.
ALLAHABAD HIGH COURT: ADVOCATES SHOULDN’T ADVISE CLIENTS TO REAGITATE MATTERS IF THERE IS NO ERROR APPARENT ON FACE OF RECORD
The Allahabad High Court in the case Malhan and 17 Others Vs. State Of U.P. And Another observed and stated that an advocate should be given such a piece of advice when there is no error apparent on the face of the record nor was there any reason why the matter be re-agitated it was finally decided.
The bench comprising of Justice Dr. Kaushal Jayendra Thaker and Justice Vivek Varma observed while dealing with the civil review application wherein the bench observed the concerned advised his client to make a chance by filling the instant review application after a period of six year.
In the present case, a civil review petition was filled along with the application under section 5 of the Limitation Act, 1963., the application was filled for seeking condonation of delay in filling the application, the application was filled with a delay of six years i.e., 1900 days.
It was stated by the applicant that the review application could not be filled due to the blockage of public transportation on account of the COVID-19 guidelines.
Moreover, the court observed that the appeals were disposed of by the Apex Court in the year 2016 and only in 2020-2021, the pandemic struck India and furthermore, it cannot be said that due to the COVID guidelines the public transportation was blocked and however, the applicant could not come to Allahabad Court to file review.
Further, it was stated that the court asked the counsel for the review applicants to explain the delay in filling the review application, to which the council gave a strange reply that the counsel had advised the clients that they must take a chance by filling this review application after a period of six years.
Following this, the Court observed:
The court noted that an advocate should not give such an advice when there is no error apparent on the face of record nor was there any other reason that when the matter was finally decided, why the matter be re-agitated.
It was stated that the court has no reason to condone the delay of six years as the same was not explained as to why this review application is filed after such an inordinate delay.
The Court opined that the lapse in approaching the court within the time is understandable but a total inaction for long period of delay without any explanation whatsoever and that too in absence of showing any sincere attempt on the part of suiter, this would add to his negligence and the relevant factor going against him.
The court observed that careless and reckless is shown by the review applicant in approaching the court and due to the condemnation of delay in the application with a token cost of Rs.10,000/, the court dismissed the application.
SUPREME COURT CRITICISES HIGH COURT: POSTING ANTICIPATORY BAIL PLEA AFTER TWO MONTHS CAN’T BE APPRECIATED
The Supreme Court in the case Sanjay versus The State (NCT of Delhi) & ANR observed and stated that in the case where personal liberty is involved, the court is expected to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other. Further, the top court observed that posting of an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.
The bench comprising of Justice C. T. Ravikumar and the Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia was hearing a June 2 SLP against the Delhi High Court in a petition filed under section 420, 467, 468, 471, 120-B, 34 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 for seeking anticipatory bail in a 2022 FIR, a notice is issued. It was stated that the learned APP for the state is present and accepts the notice and seeks time to file status report. The High Court in the impugned order stated that Let the status report be filed by the state prior to the next date with an advance copy to the learned counsel for the petitioner. The matter is to be list on 31.08.2022.
It was noted by the bench comprising of Justice Ravikumar and the Justice Dhulia that in the captioned Special Leave Petition, the grievance of the petitioner is that the application for anticipatory bail moved by the petitioner, being Crl. M.A. No. 11480 of 2022 in Bail Application No. 1751 of 2022 without granting any interim protection, was posted to 31.08.2022. on 24.05.2022, the bail application was moved on.
However, the bench asserted that the bench is of the considered view that in a matter involving personal liberty, the Court is expected to to pass orders at the earliest while taking into account the merits of the matter in one way or other.
It was declared by the bench that at any rate posting an application for anticipatory bail after a couple of months cannot be appreciated by the court.
Further, the bench requested to the High Court to dispose off the application for anticipatory bail on its own merits and in accordance with law expeditiously, preferably within a period of three weeks after reopening of the Court. Adding to it, the bench stated that if the main application could not be disposed off, for any reason, within the stipulated time, relief sought for in the interlocutory and on and on its own merits, the application shall be considered.
While disposing of the SLP, the bench directed in its order that we grant interim protection from arrest to the petitioner herein, Till such time.
IN THE CIRP OF BOMBAY RAYON FASHIONS LTD, NATIONAL COMPANY APPELLATE TRIBUNAL (NCLT) STAYS THE CONSTITUTION OF COC
The National Company Appellate Tribunal (NCLT) in the case National Company Appellate Tribunal (NCLT), comprising of the bench of Justice M. Venugopal (Judicial Member) and the technical member, Shri Kanthi Narahari observed while adjudicating an appeal filed in Prashant Agarwal v Vikash Parasprampuria, has stayed in the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) the constitution of the Committee of Creditors (COC) of Bombay Rayon Fashions Ltd. on 15.06.2022, the order was passed.
FACTS OF THE CASE:
The Operational Creditor or the Respondent, Vikash Parasprampuria is the sole Proprietor of Chiranjilal Yarn Traders and the respondent had supplied goods to a public listed company i.e., Bombay Rayon Fashions Limited (“Corporate Debtor”). The Operational Creditor raised nine invoices which was accepted by the Corporate Debtor without any demur and it was noted that the dispute, protest and part payments were also made towards certain invoices.
The reminder letter was sent by the Operational Creditor when the Corporate Debtor failed to release balance payments letters followed by a Demand Notice under Section 8 of the IBC dated 05.11.2020, which was delivered to the Corporate Debtor but no response was received from the Corporate Debtor.
MUMBAI NCLT PROCEEDINGS
An application under section 9 of the Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, 2016 was filled by the Operational Creditor before the NCLT Mumbai Bench, seeking to initiation of CIRP against the Corporate Debtor, for defaulting in payment of Rs.1,60,87,838/-, wherein the principal amount was Rs. 97,87,220/- and remaining was interest. 01.11.2020, was the default date.
the Operational Creditor placed reliance so as to justify the compliance of Rs. 1 Crore threshold for initiating CIRP of the NCLT judgement in the case Pavan Enterprises v. Gammon India, it was held in the case that interest is payable to the Operational of Financial Creditor then the debt will include interest, in terms of any agreement. However, by including the interest component the threshold of Rs. 1 Crore was being me and no reply has been filled by the Corporate Debtor.
An order dated 07.06.2022, the NCLT Mumbai Bench observed that the Corporate Debtor had time and again by its letter, invoices and by making part payment acknowledged its liability.
It was stated by the bench that the application under Section 9 was complete in all respects as required by law and there was a default in the payment of debt amount by the Corporate Debtor. The bench accepted the application and the CIRP was initiated against the Corporate Debtor, Mr. Santanu T Ray, Interim Resolution Professional was appointed.
An application was filled by the appellant, Prashant Agarwal before the NCLT against the order dated 07.06.2022.
The settlement was proposed by the Respondent by submitting that if it would be satisfied if the Appellant pays the principal amount along with the CIRP cost towards settlement and on the settlement proposal, the appellant is yet to seek instructions.
Accordingly, the bench in the CIRP of the Corporate Debtor stayed the constitution of CoC and the CIRP process would otherwise continue.
The Appellant to accept or reject the settlement proposal of the Respondent, the bench listed the matter on 07.07.2022.
ESTOPPEL CANNOT OVERRIDE LAW: SUPREME COURT ACCEPTS UNSUCCESSFUL CANDIDATES’ CHALLENGES TO SELECTION PROCESS HELD AGAINST REGULATIONS
The Supreme Court in the case Krishna Rai (Dead) Through LRs versus The Benarus Hindu University & Others observed and held that the principle of estoppel or acquiescence would not be applied in a selection process when the principle of estoppel is held contrary to the relevant rules.
The bench comprising of Justices Dinesh Maheshwari and Justice Vikram Nath observed and reiterated that that the procedure in the relevant service manual will prevail over the principle of estoppel and the principle of estoppel cannot override in the eye of law.
An appeal was considered by bench relating to the filling up of 14 posts in Class III (Junior Clerk) in the Benarus Hindu University by way of promotion. However, the notification inviting the applications from Class IV employees for promotion to Class III had not prescribed that interview will be conducted in addition to the typing test. It was also stated that the The service rules also did not mention interview for promotion to Class III. However, it finalized 14 candidates, the Board of Examiners conducted an interview as well.
Before the Allahabad High Court, some of the candidates challenged the selection process by some candidates, who did not get selected. The candidates alleging that through the manual did not prescribe an interview and the Board of Examiners conducted the interview by “changing the rules of the game”. The Selection process was set aside by the Single bench of the High Court by holding that a grave error was committed by preparing the merit list on the basis of the interview as well.
on appeal by the BHU, the division bench of the High Court set aside the judgement of the Single bench on the ground that the petitioners without protest after having participated in the interview, the petitioners are estopped from challenging the selection process after becoming unsuccessful. The appellants approached the Supreme Court challenging the order of division bench.
The Court noted that the Supreme Court held that the division bench fell in error by applying the principle of estoppel. the Manual duly approved by the Executive Council, According to para 6.4, all Class-IV employees who had put in five years’ service and passed matriculation examination or equivalent, those employees were eligible for the promotion to the post of Junior Clerk Grade.
the departmental written test of simple English, Hindi, and Arithmetic, but could not pass the typing test, was passed by the eligible candidates and still the candidates would be eligible for promotion.
It was observed by the Court that the Board on their own changed the criteria and by introducing an interview it made it purely merit based and the merit list was also prepared on the basis of marks awarded in the type test, the written test and interview.
The Top Court said that it is settled principle that the principle of estoppel cannot override the law and the manual duly approved by the Executive Council will prevail over any such principle of estoppel or acquiescence.
The Court remarked, while referring to the precents that If the law requires something to be done in a particular manner, there can be no estoppel against law, then it must be done in that particular manner, and if it is not done in that particular manner, then in the eye of the law, it would have no existence.
It was stated that the case laws relied upon by the Division bench had no application in the facts of the present case as none of those judgments laid down states that the principle of estoppel would be above in the eye of law.
Accordingly, The judgement of the Single bench was restored and the appeal was allowed, the judgement of the division bench was set aside.
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