The Chhattisgarh High Court on Tuesday refused to grant interim relief to lok Shukla, former IAS and Principal Secretary to the Department of Parliamentary Affairs, Chhattisgarh, in the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered against him for money laundering.
The division bench of Chief Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Parth Prateem Sahu granted two weeks time to the Directorate of Enforcement to file a detailed reply but expressed its disinclination to grant any interim order for the time being.
Shukla had approached the High Court through Advocate Aayush Bhatia, stating that the ECIR registered against him was illegal inasmuch as the case was commenced and continued by the authorities without:
(i) Recording any information relating to the commission of a cognizable offence under u/s 154 of the Cr.P.C.
(ii) Forwarding any report/ FIR/ ECIR of the cognizable offence to the competent Magistrate u/s 257 of the Cr.P.C.
(iii) Producing such case diary before the Magistrate, if the Petitioner was arrested and produced before the Magistrate (u/s 167 Cr.P.C).
He had also questioned the transfer of the investigation of in case from authorities at Raipur to New Delhi.
He had submitted that despite the fact that all the infrastructure is available at Raipur, the investigation had been shifted to Delhi and he was required to be present before the authority concerned in Delhi, even during the Covid-19 pandemic period; only with an intention to harass him.
The ED had contended that the plea had been filed only to stall the proceedings and even though the Petitioner had been granted pre-arrest bail, he was not cooperating with the authority.
“It is pointed out that the Petitioner had sought for an Anticipatory Bail referring to the cognizable offences and has obtained a favourable order as well. It is however pointed out that the Court has not given any ‘blanket order’ and it has been specifically directed to co-operate with the proceedings/investigation. After obtaining that order, instead of complying with the directions given by the Court, the Petitioner has chosen to approach this Court by filing the writ petition, questioning the vires of the provisions in the ‘Act’; absolutely without any tenable ground,” the High Court recorded ED’s submissions.
As mentioned above, the court has issued notice to the authority but has refused to stay the investigation for the time being.
Inter alia, the plea challenges various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, relating to arrest, as ultra vires the Constitution.
The Petitioner has contended that:
- Section 50 of the Act is contrary to the right against self- incrimination enshrined under the Constitution;
- The provisions of Chapter III of PMLA dealing with attachment, adjudication and confiscation are unreasonable and void;
- Provisions of search & seizure under Section 17 and 18 of the PMLA are arbitrary;
- Section 19 of the Act enables the authorities to arrest a person even before forming a prima facie opinion about complicity of the accused
- Section 24 of PMLA violates criminal law principle that accused is innocent until proven guilty.
The ED had opposed these submissions while stating that the idea and understanding of the Petitioner as to scope of the provisions of the Act is “wrong and misconceived”.
Case Title: Alok Shukla v. Directorate of Enforcement
Case No.: WPCR No. 291/2020
Quorum: Chief Justice PR Ramachandra Menon and Justice Parth Prateem Sahu
Appearance: Advocate Arshdeep Singh (for Petitioner); ASG B. Gopa Kumar with Dr. Saurabh Pande (for Respondents)