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Supreme Court Rulings on Enforcement Directorate's Arrest Powers

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    24th Dec, 2023

Context

In two cases of arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the accused weren't supplied with written grounds for arrest when they were taken into custody.

  • While one SC Bench deemed this an 'arbitrary exercise of power', the other upheld it. These divergent views by SC have given rise to debate on the powers of arrest by ED.

Background

Background of ED's Arrest Powers:

  • The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) grants the ED the authority to arrest individuals based on credible evidence.
  • Section 19 of the PMLA emphasizes the need for informing the arrested person of the grounds for arrest at the earliest.

Supreme Court Decisions:

Two Supreme Court Benches presented conflicting perspectives on the procedure for informing the accused about the grounds of arrest.

  • PankajBansal vs. UOI:Recently, a two-judge Bench mandated the ED to provide written grounds of arrest to the accused at the time of arrest. This decision was considered a crucial safeguard to prevent arbitrary exercise of power.
  • Vijay MadanlalChoudhary vs. UOI:Contrarily, another three-judge Bench ruled that orally informing the accused of the grounds of arrest is sufficient. This decision, in effect, diluted the other ruling, creating a divergence in the interpretation of Section 19 of the PMLA.
  • Ram KishorArora's Case:
    • The recent case of Supertech Limited’s founder, Ram KishorArora, brought this legal divergence to the forefront.
    • Arora challenged his arrest, arguing that oral intimation of grounds violated his rights under Section 19(1) of the PMLA and other fundamental rights.

Supreme Court's Decision in Arora's Case:

  • In its ruling, the Supreme Court stated that the PankajBansal ruling couldn't be applied retrospectively to Arora's case, as his arrest predates it by approximately three months.
  • The Court, relying on its decision in Vijay Madanlal’s case, emphasized that oral communication suffices to meet the legal requirements.

Legal Conundrum:

  • The crux of the matter lies in the interpretation of the phrase "as soon as maybe" in Section 19 of the PMLA.
  • The Bench of Justices BelaTrivedi and Satish Chandra Sharma insisted that this phrase denotes an early, reasonably convenient, or requisite period.

Precedent Dilemma:

The legal system faces a challenge when two Benches of equal strength arrive at conflicting conclusions on the same legal question. While the rule of precedents aims to ensure consistency, there is ambiguity when two Benches differ.

Verifying, please be patient.

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