Mehbooba Mufti Challenges Constitutionality of PMLA Notice, ED Won't Press Summons for Now

At stake is the constitutional protection against self-incrimination and the right of an accused person to silence.
Mar 10, 2021 | The Wire Staff

New Delhi: Responding to former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s challenge to the constitutionality of Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in the Delhi high court today, the Enforcement Directorate – which had invoked the impugned provision to summon her – said it would not insist on questioning her till the next date of the hearing. The court has now posted the matter on March 19 for a hearing.

The ED had issued her notice last week demanding that she appear for questioning before it in Delhi on March 15.

Mufti has challenged the PMLA provision as violating a citizen’s right to protection against self incrimination and urged that the law needs to be revisited in light of the Supreme Court’s recent decision upholding the constitutional protection against self incrimination.

The apex court held that since investigating officers under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS) Act were covered within the definition of ‘police’ while recording statements, the statements they record from persons they question will be hit by the bar of Section 25 of the Evidence Act, which says “No confession made to a police officer, shall be proved as against a person accused of any offence.”

Mufti’s counsel, Nitya Ramakrishnan, has argued that the conduct of ED investigators under the PMLA is squarely covered by the recent Supreme Court judgement and that this renders Section 50 of the PMLA ultra vires the constitution. And that even otherwise, a statement compelled upon pain of prosecution, when treated as evidence, destroys the right of silence