The Supreme Court has constituted a three-judge special bench to review on October 18 a judgment passed by another three-judge bench in July last year upholding the sweeping powers of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to arrest alleged money-launderers and seize or attach their properties without adequate safeguards.
The bench will have Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul, Sanjiv Khanna and Bela M. Trivedi.
The July 27, 2022, judgment had drawn flak in both political and apolitical circles as the Narendra Modi government has often been accused of using the ED and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) against Opposition politicians and critics.
Though there is no official communique from the Supreme Court on the hearing, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul, while dealing with a PMLA-related ED case on Bharat Rashtra Samithi leader K. Kavita, told advocates about the bench’s constitution and its sitting on October 18.
On July 27 last year, a bench of Justices A.M. Khanwilkar, Dinesh Maheshwari and C.T. Ravi Kumar had upheld the constitutionality of the PMLA provisions relating to the overarching powers of the ED, including imposing stringent bail conditions and “search, seizure, summoning and arrest” powers. The bench had said it was necessary to curb offences like terrorism and drug trafficking that affect the “social and economic fabric” of the country.
Justices Khanwilkar and Maheshwari have retired.
In August last year, a bench headed by then Chief Justice of India N.V. Ramana had agreed to hear the review petition filed by Congress MP Karti Chidambaram. The court had also decided to hear the matter in an open court, although review petitions are heard in the closed-door chambers of judges.
Both Karti and his father and Congress veteran P. Chidambaram had earlier been arrested by the ED for alleged money-laundering offences.
However, the review petition did not come up for hearing as Justice Ramana retired on August 26 last year.