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SC dismisses Centre’s plea against mandating ED to furnish grounds of arrest

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has dismissed the Centre’s petition seeking review of its verdict which said the Enforcement Directorate (ED) is required to furnish the grounds of arrest to an accused in writing “without exception”, saying there was no error in its judgement warranting reconsideration.

A bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Sanjay Kumar considered the review petition in chambers and passed the order.

“We have carefully gone through the review petitions and the connected papers. We do not find any error, much less apparent, in the order impugned, warranting its reconsideration. The review petitions are dismissed accordingly. Pending application, if any, stands disposed of,” the bench said.

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In its order passed on March 20, the bench also dismissed the Centre’s application for an open court hearing.

The Centre had sought a review of the October 3 order of the apex court by which it had set aside the orders of the Punjab and Haryana High Court as well as the arrest memos, while directing the release of Basant Bansal and Pankaj Bansal, directors of Gurugram-based realty group M3M, in a money laundering case.

The top court had come down heavily on the ED and said it is not expected to be “vindictive” in its conduct and must act with utmost probity and fairness.

It had said being a premier investigating agency charged with the onerous responsibility of curbing the debilitating economic offence of money laundering in the country, every action of the ED in the course of such exercise is expected to be “transparent, above board and conforming to pristine standards of fair play in action”.

“The ED, mantled with far-reaching powers under the stringent Act of 2002, is not expected to be vindictive in its conduct and must be seen to be acting with utmost probity and with the highest degree of dispassion and fairness,” the top court had said.

It had said the failure of the accused to respond to the questions put to them by the ED would not be sufficient in itself for the investigating officer to opine that they were liable to be arrested.

“Mere non-cooperation of a witness in response to the summons issued under Section 50 of the (PMLA) Act of 2002 would not be enough to render him/her liable to be arrested under Section 19,” the top court had said.

Justice Kumar, who had penned the verdict on behalf of the bench, also questioned the manner of arrest of the Bansals in the case and said the chronology of events “speaks volumes and reflects rather poorly, if not negatively, on the ED’s style of functioning”.

Referring to the provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) related to informing the arrested person about the grounds of arrest, the top court had said, “We hold that it would be necessary, henceforth, that a copy of such written grounds of arrest is furnished to the arrested person as a matter of course and without exception”.

The top court had said if any sensitive material is mentioned in the grounds of arrest, it would always be open for the ED to redact such sensitive portions in the document and furnish the edited copy of grounds of arrest to the arrested person so as to safeguard the sanctity of the investigation.

Basant and Pankaj Bansal were arrested by the ED in connection with the money laundering probe linked to an alleged bribery case.

The money laundering case in which Basant and Pankaj Bansal were arrested pertained to an FIR filed by the anti-corruption bureau of the Haryana Police in April last year against Sudhir Parmar, a former special judge for ED and CBI cases who was posted in Panchkula, his nephew and a third M3M group director Roop Kumar Bansal.

In its FIR, the ED had alleged that reliable information was received about Parmar showing “favouritism” to the Bansals and real estate firm IREO owner Lalit Goyal in the ED and CBI cases pending against them in his court.

Parmar was suspended by the Punjab and Haryana High Court after a case was registered against him by the anti-corruption bureau.

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