Black money: Setback for PMLA cases as special court goes vacant
In a major blow to fight against black money, a special authority established to try money laundering cases bearing revenue value of crores of rupees has been rendered vacant as the lone member of the three-member body resigned on Monday.
The Adjudicating Authority (AA) under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is designated to function as the first appellate authority against attachment of assets made by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) under stringent money laundering laws. Any party whose assets, whether movable or immovable, have been attached by the ED under PMLA laws can appeal before the special court which has to decide on the extension of the freeze within 180 days of the issue of the order by the probe agency.
While the special court was already under-staffed, in the absence of a Chairman for the last about five months, the other post of the Member (acting as Judge) has been vacant for over a year now.
The lone serving Member of the AA Mukesh Kumar, an ex-Director General of Income Tax (Investigations), tendered his resignation on Monday citing "personal reasons".
"I shall be relinquishing office on the expiry of 3 months from the date of receipt of this letter (April 27, 2015) in your office unless my resignation is accepted from the earliest date.
"I am thankful to your good self for kind cooperation extended by your Honour from time to time," Kumar said in his letter, accessed by PTI, sent to the President's office through the Revenue Secretary. .
Sources said Kumar had decided to quit as the AA has to hear over the next few months more than 100 money laundering attachment cases filed by the ED, some of which are high-profile with a value of over Rs 800 crore involved. It would be near impossible for one person to handle all these cases.
If the cases are not heard in time, all assets seized by the ED would stand de-freezed.
“The lone Member would not be able to take such a huge volume of cases single-handedly as the two other posts of Judges, including a Chairman, have been vacant for a long time now.
“A number of cases are getting time-barred in the next few days and months and that would be a big setback for the ED which is combating money laundering instances in India and abroad under the overall fight against the menace of black money,” sources said.
Kumar did not respond to phone calls made to him to elicit the reasons of his pre-mature exit.
He was appointed as the Member of the AA in 2013 for a period of five years by an order of the President under the seal of the Finance Ministry’s Department of Revenue.
Sources privy to the development at the special court said a total of 112 cases are listed to be heard on the cause list of the court till on Monday with over Rs 4,000 crore of revenue locked therein.