Attached property needs to be released, in case PMLA probe exceeds 365 days with no proceedings: Delhi HC
- The petitioner, a resolution petitioner, approached the High Court against an order dated February 10, 2021 passed by the Adjudicating Authority under Section 8(3) of PMLA confirming the retention of documents, records and jewellery seized from his premises by ED during search and seizure.
- He prayed that the Court issue a declaration that the said order has ceased to have effect from February 11, 2022 due to non-filing of prosecution complaint within 365 days as contemplated under Section 8(3) of PMLA.
- It was argued by the petitioner that the words “the proceedings relating to any offence under this Act before a Court” in Section 8(3)(a) must be read in a narrow manner so as to mean only the complaint which arrays the person from whom the documents or the property has been seized as an accused or mentions such documents or property as relied upon in such complaint.
- ED, however, contended that there is no reason to give a restricted meaning to these words and any proceedings relating to any offence under this Act shall be sufficient to extend the period by which the property seized or frozen can be retained.
Hon Delhi HC held as below:
- The expression “pendency of the proceedings relating to any offence under this Act [PMLA] before a Court” as contained in Section 8(3) of the PMLA relates only to a complaint that is pending before a PMLA Court in relation to the person from whom the property was seized.
- This would not include the petitions filed by the person (whose properties were seized) challenging summons, search and seizure action or petitions seeking supply of relied upon documents.
- It is also to be remembered that the power of attachment, seizure, and freezing of the properties and records is a draconian provision that has to be strictly construed.
- The continuation of such seizure beyond 365 days, in absence of the pendency of any proceedings relating to any offence under the PMLA before a court or under the corresponding law of any other country before the competent court of criminal jurisdiction outside India, shall be confiscatory in nature, without authority of law and, therefore, violative of Article 300A of the Constitution of India.
The copy of the order is as under: