Appellate PMLA tribunal Chairman lands in legal row

The judge, Ananya Sen, an IRS officer, accused the tribunal’s Chairman of transgressing his authority by passing an order to prevent the ED from confiscating properties of two Bollywood producers, who are under trial for alleged money laundering.

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The appellate PMLA tribunal is trying high-profile cases involving suspected economic offenders such as Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi.
New Delhi: The appellate Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) tribunal that is trying high-profile cases involving suspected economic offenders such as Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi has found itself in the thick of a controversy after a judge on Tuesday accused the chairman of the tribunal, Manmohan Singh, of “blatant illegalities.”

The judge, Ananya Sen, an Indian Revenue Service officer, accused the tribunal’s chairman of transgressing his authority by passing an order to prevent the Enforcement Directorate from confiscating properties of two Bollywood producers, who are under trial for alleged money laundering. Such a move has been described as unprecedented by several legal experts.

Sen recorded her dissent in an order, which ET has reviewed, claiming that Singh had ordered a stay on confiscation of assets of film producers Monica Maluka and Robinson Duggal, despite the fact that she had vacated the stay on the same day and allowed the ED to proceed with the confiscation.


“Shri Manmohan Singh in blatant violation of all laws and legal procedure, even where the laws give him no such power/authority to overrule another bench’s order, unabashedly gives stay of the impugned order/notices thereby benefiting the appellant (the film producers) and notwithstanding that the same had been vacated by me on the same day a few moments earlier,” Sen noted.

Sen could not be reached for comment. Manmohan Singh, a retired Delhi High Court judge, who is heading the tribunal on a three-year term, vehemently denied the charges when contacted by ET. “I passed the order as the earlier order vacating the stay was not available on the file,” Singh said.

“Moreover, as per the PMLA Act, it is very clear that all matters where a transfer petition has been filed can only be adjudicated upon by the chairman of the tribunal, who has the authority to transfer a case from a single judge bench to a division bench”, he said.
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The appellants had approached the tribunal for transferring the case from a single bench being adjudicated upon by Ananya Sen to a division bench, Singh told ET, citing that the matter was well within his jurisdiction. “If at all there is a defect, it can be cured. In any case, if any defect has taken place, it is bonafide,” Singh told ET.

The appellate PMLA court has been a hotbed of activity over the past couple of years as cases of money laundering involving high profile suspects have increased in the wake of banking frauds such as those that hit the Punjab National Bank.

The Delhi High Court recently set aside a few orders passed by the PMLA appellate tribunal that had restrained the Enforcement Directorate from confiscating properties of individuals suspected of money laundering because banks had liens on those properties.
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