top of page

Orissa HC Determines S. 45 of PMLA Does Not Apply to S. 205 CrPC Applications

Introduction

On 26.04.2024, the High Court of Orissa (‘HC’) delivered the judgment in the case of Lalita Mohan Das v. Assistant Director, ED[i], wherein the HC observed that an application under s. 205 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (‘CrPC’) seeking exemption from personal appearance is maintainable in a case involving money laundering offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (‘PMLA’), and that the bar under s. 45 of the PMLA would not be attracted to such an application.

Brief Facts

  • The petitioner was a government executive engineer in Bhubaneswar. At that time, he was arraigned as an accused in a Vigilance case FIR in 2009, the basis of which the Directorate of Enforcement (‘ED’) registered an ECIR in 2010. The chargesheet in the Vigilance case was filed in 2015. On the basis of this case, a PMLA case was registered in New Delhi against the petitioner in 2017.

  • The petitioner filed an application before the Sessions Court challenging the maintainability of the PMLA case. While rejecting the application, the Court directed the petitioner to appear before it and fixed a date of appearance.

  • Thereafter, the petitioner moved an application under s. 205 of CrPC to dispense with the personal appearance before the Sessions Court. However, considering the nature of offences involved in a money laundering case along with restrictively interpreting s. 45 of the PMLA, the Sessions Court deemed it appropriate to secure the petitioner's attendance. Thus, the said application under s. 205 was rejected, and the petitioner was directed to appear before the Court.

  • Being aggrieved by the same, the petitioner preferred an application under s. 482 of the CrPC praying quashing of the order passed by the Sessions Court.

Held

  • The HC, while setting aside the impugned order, remanded the matter for fresh consideration in view of the observations made in the present decision. It was held that an application under s. 205 of the CrPC is maintainable even in cases involving offences under the PMLA, and such application is not barred under the rigours of s. 45 of the PMLA.

  • However, the HC, relying on Chintan Joshi v. Niranjan Behera[ii] and Bhaskar Industries Limited v. Bhiwani Denims and Apparels Limited[iii], cautioned that in such cases, the trial court has to give due consideration to the reasons given by the applicant showing their inability to appear before the court for which such an exemption is sought.

  • Based on the facts of the present case, the HC observed that the case was fit for interference. Considering that the petitioner’s present posting was at a far-off place from where the trial was ongoing, the impugned order of the lower court was set aside.

Our Analysis

S. 45 of the PMLA imposes twin conditions for the release of any person accused of an offence under the PMLA on bail or his own bond. The Apex Court and various High Courts of the country have interpreted this section in a manner that the power of granting bail to a person accused of offences under the PMLA is exercised with extreme caution. This provision of the PMLA has visible rippling effects on the applicants seeking any relief in money laundering cases. The same has been observed in the present case where the trial court was swayed by the severity of s. 45 of the PMLA and considering the impact of money laundering on the national economy and security, rejected the application seeking exemption under s. 205 of the CrPC.

However, the decision of the HC in the present case is a step towards a positive direction. It provides a reprieve for individuals accused of money laundering by allowing for the possibility of exemption from personal appearance in cases where there is genuine hardship and an inability to appear before the trial court. This ruling signifies a more balanced approach, offering relief to those facing legitimate difficulties in complying with court appearances while maintaining the seriousness of money laundering offences.





End Notes

[i] CRLMC No. 2459 of 2022, Orissa High Court.

[ii] CRLMC No. 2940 of 2022, Orissa High Court.

[iii] (2001) 7 SCC 401.





Authored by Sanyam Aggarwal, Advocate at Metalegal Advocates. The views expressed are personal and do not constitute legal opinion.

Comments


bottom of page