New Delhi, May 28 (ILNS): The Delhi High Court today issued notice in the plea of Amnesty International, which sought to quash provisional attachment order of PMLA officers.
The Bench, headed by Justice Rekha Palli, ordered that the proceeding before the PMLA adjudicating authority shall continue, but its order will not be implemented without the leave of the Delhi High Court. The matter is now deferred for hearing on September 28.
The fact of the matter is that on a complaint dated June 12, 2019 by the Ministry of Home Affairs (Foreigners Division), an FIR was registered at the Central Bureau of Investigation, New Delhi under the following charges:-
• Section 120B (Criminal Conspiracy) of the IPC
• Sections 11 The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act i.e no person having a definite cultural, economic, educational, religious or social programme shall accept foreign contribution unless such person obtains a certificate of registration from the Central Government,
• Section 35 i.e Whoever accepts foreign contribution in contravention of any provision of The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to five years, or with fine, or with both and
• Section 39 The Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act i.e. Where an offence under this Act or any rule or order made thereunder has been committed by a company, every person who, at the time the offence was committed, was in charge of, and was responsible to, the company for the conduct of the business of the company, as well as the company, shall be deemed to be guilty of the offence and shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly)
Based on the said FIR, the Directorate of Enforcement registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) against the petitioners named in the said FIR, and commenced investigation under the PMLA.
Pursuant to the ECIR, the Directorate of Enforcement issued Provisional Attachment order, which resulted in freezing of properties worth Rs 1,87,86,807, comprising two bank accounts holding a total of Rs 2,35,977 and 10 fixed deposit accounts, holding a total of Rs 1,85,50,830, which belonged to the petitioner.
On Friday, the Counsel of Directorate of Enforcement appeared before the bench and submitted that due to lockdown ordered by the Government of Delhi with effect from April 19, 2021 in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, day-to-day proceedings cannot be held in the PMLA Court.
To which the Counsel of the petitioner submitted that the said lockdown order did not apply to the offices of the Central Government, and proceedings before the Adjudicating Authority, PMLA continue to be conducted online through video-conferencing mode.
Thereafter, the Counsel of the petitioner pointed out Sections 5 and 8 (3) of the PMLA Act and placed its reliance on the judgement of the Divisional Bench of the Delhi High Court in ‘M/s Vikas WSP Ltd & Ors vs Directorate of Enforcement & Anr,’ which inter-alia observed that the maximum period of validity of a Provisional Attachment Order issued under Section 5(1) PMLA is 180 days from the date of its issuance, unless confirmed by the PMLA Adjudicating Authority, prior to the expiry of such 180 days.
After the expiry of period of 180 days, the Provisional Attachment Order automatically lapses/ceases to have any effect, as provided under Section 5(3) read with Section 5(1) PMLA.
The Counsel of petitioner prayed for the declaration that the Provisional Attachment Order issued by the Directorate of Enforcement in ECIR all proceedings emanating therefrom including Original Complaint have lapsed and ceased to have any effect on and from the expiry of 180-day period provided under Section 5(1) read with Section 5(3) and Section 8(3) PMLA. ILNS/ABV/SS/RJ