Delhi HC Dismisses Jairam Ramesh's Challenge To Amendments In PMLA Through Money Bill [Read Order]

Delhi HC Dismisses Jairam Ramesh

The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed a petition moved by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh challenging the amendments made to the anti-money laundering law since 2015 enacted via Finance Acts as 'Money Bills.

A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao dismissed Ramesh's petition seeking to declare and set aside sections 145, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150 and 151 of the Finance Act, 2015, Section 232 of the Finance Act, 2016 and Section 208 of the Finance Act, 2018 as ultra-vires the Constitution of India.

Appearing for Ramesh, senior advocate P Chidambaram had argued that a Money Bill is restricted only to the specified matters and cannot include within its ambit any other matter and that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 was enacted on January 17, 2013 for the purposes of preventing the offence of money laundering and the confiscation of property derived from such offence. Before the year 2015, the Act was amended on various occasions through Ordinary Bills as defined under Article 109 of the Constitution of India. However, from the year 2015 most amendments to the PML Act have been enacted via Finance Acts as 'Money Bills', defined under Article 110(1) of the Constitution.

However, on a specific query from the Court as to why Ramesh, being a Parliamentarian, was challenging the amendments effected in the years 2015, 2016 and 2018 now in the year 2019, Chidambram had submitted that the petitioner was not aware that such Bills were passed as Money Bills and that it was only after the information was taken under Right to Information Act, the picture became clear that the amendments of 2015, 2016 and 2018 were passed as Money Bills.

He also relied on the apex court verdict in Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors., better known as the Privacy judgement, wherein a similar issue was raised with regard to the Aadhar Act as the same was passed as a Money Bill wherein the Supreme Court held that the decision of the Speaker on whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, is justiciable.

Maninder Acharya, Additional Solicitor General for the Union of India, however, stated that the present petition challenging the amendments effected in the years 2015, 2016 and 2018, that too at the behest of a person, who is not affected by the amendments, must not be entertained

The High Court was of the view that the petition was filed after much delay and he had no locus to challenge the same.

"…there is no dispute that the petitioner herein is a Member of Rajya Sabha. The plea of Mr. Chidambram that the petitioner was not aware that such amendments have been carried out as Money Bills, is no reason to challenge the amendments, at least of the years 2015 and 2016 in the year 2019. In any case, merely because the petitioner came to know recently that such amendments have been carried out as Money Bills, would not justify the delay.

"Even otherwise, his submission that it was only after the judgment was rendered by the Supreme Court, on a similar issue, did the petitioner thought it fit to challenge the amendments of 2015, 2016 and 2018 by filing this petition, does not answer the submission made by Ms. Acharya that the challenge, apart from being hit by delay and laches, is by a person who has no locus, being not aggrieved by the amendments," said the high court.

The high court accepted the reliance placed by the Centre on judgment of the Supreme Court in Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd. wherein it was held that, "A parliamentary legislation when receives the assent of the President of India and published in an Official Gazette, unless specifically excluded, will apply to the entire territory of India. If passing of a legislation gives rise to a cause of action, a writ petition questioning the constitutionality thereof can be filed in any High Court of the country. It is not so done because a cause of action will arise only when the provisions of the Act or some of them which were implemented shall give rise to civil or evil consequences to the petitioner. A writ court, it is well settled would not determine a constitutional question in vacuum."

The bench then concluded, "We do not think that it is a case where this Court should exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India".

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