The Enforcement Directorate Monday opposed Robert Vadra’s plea seeking quashing of a money laundering case in which he was questioned by the probe agency, saying it was not maintainable as he “wilfully suppressed” material facts from the court.
The ED contended that the plea of Vadra, brother-in-law of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, was an abuse of process of law.
When he feared that “law will catch him, he challenged the PMLA provisions”, it added.
A bench of justices Hima Kohli and Vinod Goel asked the probe agency to file its response in the form of an affidavit regarding the maintainability of two separate but similar petitions by Vadra and his close aide Manoj Arora within two weeks.
The court listed the matter for further hearing on May 2.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the ED and the Centre, raised objection over the maintainability of the two petitions and said no relief should be granted to them.
“Let me file an affidavit to show that the petitioners (Vadra and Arora) are in suppression and not interested to reach to the root of the matter,” the law officer argued.
ED, also represented by advocates D P Singh and Amit Mahajan, said Vadra has not approached the court with clean hands and there is suppression of the most crucial and material facts by him.
The ED case relates to allegations of money laundering in the purchase of a London-based property at 12, Bryanston Square, worth 1.9 million pounds. The property is allegedly owned by Vadra.
Vadra, represented through senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, has also sought that various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, be declared unconstitutional.
The bench asked as to why they have approached the high court when the Supreme Court is seized of various pleas challenging certain provisions of the PMLA, including its power to arrest and the burden of proof.
To this, Singhvi said he has challenged six provisions of the PMLA here while the Supreme Court is only hearing the challenge on two of the provisions.
Vadra has sought in his plea that Sections 3 (offence of money laundering), 17 (search and seizure), 19 (power to arrest), 24 (burden of proof), 44 (offences triable by special courts) and 50 (powers of authorities regarding summons, production of documents and to give evidence, etc) of the PMLA be declared ultra vires or unconstitutional.
He has contended that since these provisions constitute the main parts of the Act, the entire legislation was liable to be struck down on the grounds of being unconstitutional.
On Vadra’s application seeking direction to the agency to not take any coercive step against him till the pendency of his quashing petition, the bench said he has already been granted interim protection by the trial court. The bench was informed that pleas by Vadra and Arora seeking anticipatory bail are listed for hearing before a trial court, which later on Monday extended Vadra’s interim protection from arrest till March 27.
Mehta also argued in the petition Vadra has not made any reference to the investigation going on here which is under the jurisdiction of the Delhi High Court and he has mainly referred to the probe in Rajasthan land case which is not the subject matter of this FIR.
“The petitioners are fully aware as to for what they were being investigated here but they suppressed the facts in the petition,” he said.
The bench asked the ED to hand over a copy of the FIR to the counsel for Vadra and Arora who claimed they were not given the document earlier.
However, the ED told the court that the FIR copy was already part of the trial court record and therefore, accessible by the petitioners.
Vadra had said in his petition that while it is permissible for the investigating agencies to conduct further probe, the sweeping investigation power does not warrant subjecting a citizen each time to a fresh investigation in respect of the same incident giving rise to one or more cognisable offences.
The plea had said that multiple investigations have been held in “abuse of statutory power of investigation and therefore second or successive FIRs filed in connection with the same or connected cognisable offence alleged to have been committed in the course of the same transaction pursuant to the first FIR is liable to be quashed”.
The petition added that despite the investigation in the land deals in Rajasthan and Haryana by various probe agencies, nothing was found against Vadra and his firms.
“However, in order to harass and humiliate the petitioner, another ECIR (enforcement case information report) was registered into the same deals. It was in this wake of the matter that Rajasthan High Court directed that no coercive steps will be taken against the petitioner (Vadra),” the petition had said.
It had said, “another ECIR was registered with regard to the same assets in India and abroad which were subject matter of the FIRs and earlier ECIR registered by the Respondent (ED) at Jaipur. The investigation into the subject ECIR also was to be done on the basis of same documents which had already been supplied.” PTI