In a strongly worded order, Special judge MG Deshpande also noted that not even a single trial before the court which he is currently presiding, has been concluded since its establishment.
A Mumbai special court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act strongly deprecated the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for its modus operandi of arresting the accused at extraordinary pace in money laundering cases but conducting trial at snail’s pace.
In a strongly worded order, Special judge MG Deshpande also noted that not even a single trial before the court which he is currently presiding, has been concluded since its establishment and this could be squarely attributed to the ED.
“I am constrained to note that, not a single trial right from the establishment of this Designated Court, the ED has concluded by leading evidence and the Court could not give a single judgment right from the last decade. There is absolutely not a single judgment after a complete trial in this Court right from the beginning and during the tenure of my all predecessors,” the judge remarked.
He pointed out that the agency always sought more time to conduct further investigation; however, the actual evidence recorded by the Court was not more than 1-2 pages of the order.
“In this way, the extraordinary pace with which ED arrests accused becomes not even a snail speed in conducting trials. Is ED not accountable for such modus operandi availed by them in not beginning and concluding a single trial?” the Court asked.
The scathing observations were part of the the order passed by the court granting bail to Sanjay Raut, a Rajya Sabha MP and a leader of Shiv Sena’s Uddhav Thackeray faction.
The special judge also berated the agency for resorting to the provisions of remand (Section 19) and bail (Section 45) alone while forgetting the provision relating to trial (Section 44).
“It appears that ED knows only Sections 19 and 45 of the PMLA, but forgets that there is a provision for trial of an offence under PML Act as per Section 44 thereof. It is unfortunate that even this Court is forgetting that evidence has to be recorded, trials have to be conducted and judgments are to be delivered even in the PMLA special cases,” the order recorded.
The judge pointed out in the order that ED showed extra-ordinary speed in arresting the accused and, thereafter exhausted the 14-15 days custody permitted under the Code of Criminal Procedure.
The judge admonished the delay shown by the agency in responding to bail applications.
In the instant case, the Court noted that Pravin Raut had filed his bail application in May and ED replied in June after more than a month despite knowing that he is an undertrial prisoner.
“Decision of his bail application is condition precedent to decide bail application of Sanjay Raut (is) also (something) which the ED wanted to prolong for long time. Apart from this, in every matter, it is noticed that ED takes very very long time to reply the simple applications filed by any accused”, the judge said pulling up the conduct.
The judge also referred to another case of ED, where the agency took time to reply to an application informing about the death of an accused.
“A simple purshis informing death took ED to file very long reply which runs in 7-8 pages. How the trials of PMLA cases would progress?” the judge asked.
He also reiterated guidelines of Supreme Court reminding the agency and special courts to ensure trials are concluded speedily.
“Time has come to make ED aware of Section 44 of the PML Act and this Court is duty bound to do so in view of the oath it has taken to work without fear and without favour,” the judge asserted.
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