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PoliticsIndiaWhy PMLA is a bad law for conviction explained

Why PMLA is a bad law for conviction explained

Fighting a tough case on the basis of a that has a pathetic rate of securing convictions, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has appealed to transfer the entire proceedings in the case against AAP leader and former Minister Satyendar Jain today to another court. On 15 September, Additional Solicitor-General (ASG) SV Raju had, on the behalf of the ED, moved an application seeking transfer of the proceedings from the court of Special Geetanjali Goel. 

At that point, the bail hearing was in its final stages, with Jain’s lawyers wrapping up their arguments, and the ED seeking an additional date to address further arguments.

Today, Raju apprised Principal and Sessions Vinay Kumar Gupta about the application. A notice was issued to the respondents in this case. The matter will be heard on 30 September.

Advocate Sushil Kumar Gupta, representing two of the accused Vaibhav Jain and Ankush Jain, accepted the notice on behalf of his clients expressing surprise over the fact that the ED sought transfer of the entire trial in this case. “We were given the impression that this was on transfer or bail application,” said the defence lawyer while asking the court to provide a short date since the bail application was being heard for 40 days and was “in its final leg.”

The ED had arrested Satyendar Jain in connection with a case based on a CBI FIR lodged against him in 2017 under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA). Jain was accused of having laundered money through four companies allegedly linked to him.

In the past few hearings in the bail proceedings, Special Judge Goel had pulled up the ED over its probe in the case. On 8 September, she had asked the ED why it went beyond the CBI case by investigating alleged proceeds of crime not mentioned in the charge sheet. She had also sought an explanation of the criminality, remarking at one point that the companies that the AAP leader allegedly cheated were accused too.

On 13 September, the ED had sought an adjournment to address further arguments in this case. The bail hearing started on August 20 when the agency filed its written submissions opposing Jain’s plea.

Besides Jain, the court is also hearing the bail applications of co-accused in the case, Vaibhav Jain and Ankush Jain.

The CBI had filed its charge sheet against Satyendar Jain for allegedly amassing assets to the tune of Rs 1.47 crore in the disproportionate assets case. Later, the ED attached properties worth Rs 4.81 crore in connection with the probe.

Why PMLA sees low conviction rate

In July, union government data shared in the parliament showed that only 23 people have been convicted in 5,422 cases registered under the PMLA in the 17 years after the was passed. This is a conviction rate of less than 0.5%. 

Due to the low conviction rate and the people against which the PMLA has been applied in the last few years, lawyers argue that the PMLA is invoked against a political rival or a dissenter because the “process is itself the punishment”. The accused does not even know what allegations are put against them.

Unlike the PCA, where bribe seeking is enough to establish guilt, in the case of the PMLA, culpability is established only if the accused is found to be in possession of the bribe amount. 

The UPA-era PMLA is good for arrests, though. For the says, "Where involves two or more inter-connected transactions and one or more such transactions is or are proved to be involved in money laundering, then for the purposes of adjudication or confiscation, it shall be presumed that the remaining transactions form part of such inter-connected transactions."

For the ruling party, which can be fairly accused of using the ED to realise its political objectives, the arrest is good as optics. The news and visuals of a high-profile opposition leader being taken away by the ED authorities flashes before the people for a long to come, thus damaging the career of the arrested.

The person, who is accused of having committed the offence of money laundering, has to prove that alleged proceeds of crime are in fact lawful property, which is not difficult to establish, as the person might have asked the bribe-giving entity to pass on the benefit to someone else.

The PMLA may work against former Trinamool Congress leader Partha Chatterjee, for example, because his alleged accomplice Arpita Mukherjee's house, from where the ill-gotten cash was recovered, can be established as procured by the politician.

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