Jairam Ramesh moves HC challenging amendments in PMLA through Money Bills

Jairam Ramesh moves HC challenging amendments in PMLA through Money Bills

New Delhi: Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh on Wednesday moved the Delhi High Court alleging that amendments made to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) were illegally passed under the Money Bill provisions.

Ramesh’s counsel and senior advocate P. Chidambaram told a division bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V. Kameswar Rao that the PMLA was amended by way of Sections 145 to 151 of Finance Act, 2015.

“The impugned provisions, which made significant amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 were illegally passed as Money Bill provisions in express violation of Article 110 of the Constitution of India,” Ramesh said in the plea.

He said that a Money Bill is a special kind of bill that can be introduced only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot amend or reject it.

“Hence, the provisions of a Money Bill must be construed very strictly and narrowly and only if a bill falls strictly under the definition of a Money Bill [as defined under Article 110 (1)], can it be passed as a Money Bill. If the provisions of the bill fall outside the strict definition of Money Bill, the said bill cannot be passed as a Money Bill,” the plea read.

The Congress leader said he was aggrieved by the actions of the government that have illegally passed Sections 145 to 151 of the Finance Act, 2015, Section 232 of the Finance Act, 2016, and Section 208 of the Finance Act, 2018, as Money Bill provisions.

Under these amendments, the definition of “proceeds of crime” was expanded to include the value of property held within the country equivalent to the value of property outside the country where the property concerned was held or taken outside the country and the Deputy Director of Enforcement Directorate was empowered to attach property without filing a complaint.

Ramesh said that the impugned provisions have not only violated Article 110 of the Constitution of India, but also principles of federalism that form a part of the basic structure of the Constitution.

He has requested the court to set aside the amendments in the Finance Act.

The Central government has opposed the plea and questioned the locus of Ramesh for filing this public suit.

The court also asked Ramesh why was he approaching the court now when the amendments were made in 2015.

Ramesh’s counsel told the court that he was not aware of the changes made through these provisions earlier. When he examined the matter, he noted that it can be misused and therefore he approached the court.

After hearing the arguments, the court reserved the order on the plea.