The order came as the Enforcement Directorate sought an authoritative pronouncement from the top court in view of several conflicting orders of different high courts on the probe agency’s power of arrest under section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud was told by Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that the ED has been armed with the power of arrest under the statute, keeping in mind the several international conventions underlining the need to curb money laundering generated from drugs smuggling, terror financing and blackmoney routing.
Mehta referred to the 1988 UN convention and said the member countries felt the need to have a law to deal with the offence money laundering.
The advent of e-commerce has made investigation into money laundering more difficult as ill-gotten wealth have been transferred to all corners of the world very conveniently after the globalisation, he said.
The bench said the interim order of March 15 granting protection of arrest to Karti, son of former Union Minister P Chidambaram, till today, is extended till April 2. The hearing, which remained inconclusive, would also continue on April 2.
On March 15, the apex court had given the interim relief to Karti in the INX media money laundering case and said it would clear the “confusion” which has crept in due to the divergent views of different high courts on ED’s power to arrest.
The apex court had also transferred to itself the matters pending before the Delhi High Court relating to the power of Enforcement Directorate (ED) to arrest in money laundering cases and also a plea filed by Karti seeking protection from arrest in ED’s case.
The top court had said it would answer the question about interpretation of section 19 of the PMLA relating to ED’s power to arrest and also deal with the issue whether high courts can grant protection from arrest on a plea under Article 226 of the Constitution which deals with high court’s power to issue writs and orders.
Karti was on March 23 granted bail by the Delhi High Court in connection with the INX Media corruption case lodged by the CBI. He was arrested by the CBI on February 28 in Chennai immediately after he returned from abroad.
In his plea before the high court, Karti has sought striking down of ED’s power of arrest under section 19 of the PMLA, besides seeking quashing of the enforcement case information report (ECIR) and the probe being carried out by the agency.
He has also sought striking down the presumption codified in section 24 of the PMLA which says that when a person is accused of having committed an offence under section 3 (money laundering), the burden of proving that proceeds of the crime are untainted property, shall be on the accused.
An FIR by CBI, filed on May 15 last year, had alleged irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance to INX Media for receiving Rs 305 crore in overseas funds in 2007 when P Chidambaram was union finance minister.