Anticipatory bail in allegations of money laundering by ex Minister, P. Chidambaram

Money-laundering is the process of concealing illicit sources of money and the launderer transforming the money proceeds derived from criminal activity into funds and moved to other institution or transformed into legitimate asset.

It is realised world around that money laundering poses a serious threat not only to the financial systems of the countries but also to their integrity and sovereignty. The Prevention of Money-laundering Act, 2002 was enacted in pursuance of the Political Declaration adopted by the Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly held in June 1998, calling upon the Member States to adopt national money-laundering legislation and programme, primarily with a view to meet out the serious threat posed by money laundering to the financial system of the countries and to their integrity and sovereignty.

The predicate offences are under Sections 120B IPC and 420 IPC, Section 8 and Section 13(2) read with Section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act. Case is registered against the appellant and others under Sections 3 and 4 of PMLA. The main point falling for consideration is whether the appellant is entitled to the privilege of anticipatory bail.

Decision of Supreme Court:

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Framing of Charge in a Criminal Trial

At the stage of framing of charge guilt of accused is not relevant.

Section 227 itself contains enough guidelines as to the scope of enquiry for the purpose of discharging an accused. It provides that “the Judge shall discharge when he considers that there is no sufficient ground for proceeding against the accused”.

The “ground” in the context is not a ground for conviction, but a ground for putting the accused on trial. It is in the trial, the guilt or the innocence of the accused will be determined and not at the time of framing of charge. The court, therefore, need not undertake an elaborate enquiry in sifting and weighing the material. Nor is it necessary to delve deep into various aspects. All that the court has to consider is whether the evidentiary material on record if generally accepted, would reasonably connect the accused with the crime. No more need be enquired into.”

Held:

Applying the law laid down by this Court in the aforesaid decisions and considering the scope of enquiry at the stage of framing of the charge under Section 227/228 if the CrPC, we are of the opinion that the submissions made by the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant on merits, at this stage, are not required to be considered. Whatever submissions are made by the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant are on merits are required to be dealt with and considered at an appropriate stage during the course of the trial. Some of the submissions may be considered to be the defence of the accused. Some of the submissions made by the learned Counsel appearing on behalf of the appellant on the conduct of the victim/prosecutrix are required to be dealt with and considered at an appropriate stage during the trial. The same are not required to be considered at this stage of framing of the charge. On considering the material on record, we are of the opinion that there is more than a prima facie case against the accused for which he is required to be tried. There is sufficient ample material against the accused and therefore the learned Trial Court has rightly framed the charge against the accused and the same is rightly confirmed by the High Court. No interference of this Court is called for.

[Source: Tarun Jit Tejpal vs The State Of Goa decided by SC on 19 August, 2019]