The extraordinary powers of the Enforcement Directorate will come under the scanner of the Supreme Court again with the judges agreeing to hear another batch of petitions challenging them. In July last year, the top court had upheld the powers granted to the Central agency to search, seize and arrest under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
Under the law, the Enforcement Directorate enjoys unusual powers in terms of arrest, search and seizure, attachment of properties and bail.
It does not require warrants for arrest or search and in court, the onus is on the accused to prove innocence. The agency does not have to share the ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) — said to be similar to FIR (First Information Report).
The gamut of powers, which have been largely criticised by the civil society and opposition parties, had received approval from the country’s highest court last year.
Rejecting all objections, the court had said that the arrests under the money laundering law were “not arbitrary”.
Money laundering not only affects the social and economic fabric of the nation, it also promotes terrorism, drug dealing and other crimes, the court said, indicating it was essential to give teeth to the ED.
The Opposition has alleged that the central agency is being used by the BJP to rein in political opponents, generating fear of arrest and harassment.
Data shows the agency’s raids in cases of alleged money laundering are up 26 times under the Modi government, but the conviction rate is low.
In the 3,010 “money laundering” searches conducted over the last 8 years, only 23 accused have been convicted, the Finance Ministry has said in Rajya Sabha.
The government has said the increased number of searches have led to increased seizures. ‘Proceeds of crime’ to the tune of Rs 99,356 crore were attached between 2014 to 2022 while only Rs 5,346 crore was attached between 2004 to 2014, the Finance Ministry has said.