Delhi High Court fixes Mehbooba Mufti's plea in PMLA case for final hearing

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Thursday fixed for final hearing a plea by former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti challenging the Constitutional validity of certain provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

A bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh listed the matter for September 14 for final disposal of the petition.

Mufti, in her plea filed in March, has also challenged issuance of summons to her by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case.

She had stay on the summons but the court refused to grant the relief at this stage.

The 61-year-old leader, who was released last year after more than a year in detention following the scrapping of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status, was served notice to appear at the ED headquarters in the national capital.

Initially, the ED had summoned Mufti on March 15 but did not insist on her personal appearance at that time.

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Thereafter, she was summoned on March 22.

Mufti, represented through senior advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, has sought quashing of the summons.

She has also sought that Section 50 of the PMLA be declared void and inoperative, being unfairly discriminatory, bereft of safeguards, and violative of Article 20(3) of the Constitution.

Section 50 of the Act empowers the authority, that is, officers of ED, to summon any person to give evidence or produce records.

All persons summoned are bound to answer the questions put to them and to produce the documents as required by the ED officers, failing which they can be penalized under the Act.

She has also sought an interim stay on the summons until the question of law in relation to constitutionality of Section 50 of the Act is decided.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and advocate Amit Mahajan, representing the ED, had earlier mentioned that there was no need to issue formal notice to them as they are already appearing before the court and said they would file a short note on the question of law.

Mufti, in her petition, said she has received summons from the ED under the provisions of the PMLA, purporting to call for ‘evidence’ on pain of punishment, whereas she is, to all intents and purposes, a subject of investigation.

“She has not been informed if she is being summoned as an accused or as a witness. She has also not been informed of what she is being summoned in connection with and the scheduled offence under the PMLA which gave rise to the proceedings in respect of which impugned summons has been issued to her.”

“The petitioner is not the subject of investigation, nor is she an accused, in any of the scheduled offences to the best of her knowledge,” the plea said.

Ever since Mufti was released from the preventive detention following the formal abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, there have been a series of hostile acts by the State against her as well as her acquaintances and old family friends, who have all been summoned by the ED, it said.

A roving inquiry about her personal, political and financial affairs was made, during which their personal devices have been seized, the plea alleged.