Authorities who misconstrue authority

Context: The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002 vested a cadre of officers under the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) with powers to prevent money laundering, attach proceeds of crime, and confiscate assets. Power and Function of ED:
  • Search and Seizure– ED carries out search (property) and seizure (money/documents) under Section 16 and Section 17 of the PMLA.
  • In case of Arrest- If the person is arrested, the ED gets 60 days to file the prosecution complaint (charge sheet) as the punishment under PMLA doesn’t go beyond seven years.
  • In property attachment– If no one is arrested and only the property is attached, then the prosecution complaint along with attachment order is to be submitted before the adjudicating authority within 60 days.
Difference between ED and Police:
  • First Information Report – The police are required to register a First Information Report (FIR) for a cognisable offence before conducting an investigation, ED authorities are not required the follow this.
  • Accused statement as evidence- Any statement made by an accused to the police is inadmissible as evidence in court, whereas a statement made to an ED authority is admissible.
  • Accessibility of FIR- A copy of the FIR is accessible to the accused, whereas the Enforcement Case Information Report is seldom available.
Issues in the working of ED:
  • Filing charge-sheets– ED has only filed charge sheets after concluding investigation in only 1,142 cases out of the 5,906 cases registered since 2005.
  • Focus on pre-trial arrests– It is apparent that the majority of the focus is unduly spent on effecting pre­-trial arrests and not thereafter
  • Political hues in cases – It is reported that 85% of cases registered against politicians involve those belonging to the Opposition parties.

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