Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the core amendments to which were upheld by the Supreme Court on July 27, will be up for review again Thursday, with the apex court agreeing to hear a petition that has challenged the judgment.

The review petition was orally mentioned before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana.

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On July 27 this year the court upheld the Enforcement Directorate’s extensive powers to search, seize and arrest, which were challenged in multiple petitions. The contention of the petitioners was that these powers were mostly misused, especially in cases involving opposition leaders.

The 250-odd petitioners had also made the point that handing an agency unbridled powers of arrest where the accused may not be informed about reason or evidence, is unconstitutional. They also said that the use of statements in court recorded during questioning should not be allowed, since they can also be obtained under duress.

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“The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed open court hearing in the review petition filed against the judgment upholding the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The order allowed oral hearing in the review petition filed by 250-odd petitioners. Review petitions are ordinarily considered in chambers and oral hearing in open court is allowed only in exceptional cases,” Supreme Court lawyer Ajay Brahme told Opoyi.

The key contentions at stake are the amendments introduced to the 2002 Act by way of a Finance Act in 2019. The three-judge Bench said the method of introduction of the amendments through a Money Bill would be separately examined by a larger Bench of the apex court.

“The judgment under review leaves much scope at the hands of the executives for arbitrary application of the discretionary powers, for instance, it allows ED to take possession of the property even before trial (although in exceptional circumstances),” Brahme added.

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The introduction of electoral bonds for political funding announced by the late finance minister Arun Jaitley in his February 1, 2017 budget speech is also pending with CJI Ramana.

End April this year CJI Ramana assured petitioners that the Supreme Court will take up a pending plea challenging the Electoral Bond Scheme, 2018. Two NGOs — Common Cause and Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR)—have challenged the scheme, alleging that it is “distorting democracy”. The CJI has not specified any date for the hearing.

The passing of amendments under the Money Bill by the Lok Sabha (Lower House) means that they can go ahead without going to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House). It is open to interpretation if amendments that fall under the intersection of politics and finance were passed under the Money Bill as the BJP-led NDA at that point did not have a majority in the Rajya Sabha.

In the PMLA judgment last month, the court held that the Enforcement Directorate is “not required to share the ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) copy” with the accused. This document, the court said, cannot be equated with an FIR (First Information Report).

“It is enough if the Enforcement Directorate, at time of arrest, discloses grounds of such arrest,” the judges had said.

The SC judgment was challenged by Congress’s Karti Chidambaram, the son of former Union minister P Chidambaram, who has sought a stay on it. The ED is investigating an alleged money laundering case in which Karti Chidambaram has been named.

A verdict reversal is likely to bring relief to a large number of opposition leaders including Congress’s Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah and Trinamool Congress’s Partha Chatterjee, who are in the crosshairs of the Enforcement Directorate. The opposition has repeatedly accused the Centre of misusing Central agencies to fulfill a political vendetta.

The apex court had called the PMLA a law against the “scourge of money laundering” and not a hatchet wielded against rival politicians and dissenters.