2 Dec 2020 1:37 PM GMT
The Karnataka High Court has directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to disclose the power under which it has written to the banks directing them to freeze accounts of international human rights body Amnesty International's India offices (M/s Indians for Amnesty International Trust)A single bench of Justice P S Dinesh Kumar asked the counsel of ED : "What provision of law have you...
The Karnataka High Court has directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to disclose the power under which it has written to the banks directing them to freeze accounts of international human rights body Amnesty International's India offices (M/s Indians for Amnesty International Trust)
A single bench of Justice P S Dinesh Kumar asked the counsel of ED :
"What provision of law have you exercised in writing the letter to the banks? A copy of the order which is not given to the petitioner. You must have some source of power, give a specific answer to this question."
Senior Advocate Professor Ravivarma Kumar, appearing for the petitioner, while praying for interim relief submitted:
"This is a very serious matter. Repeatedly we are being harassed. We are only interested in working for human rights." He added that "Seizure has taken place and no reasons have been recorded and no order is passed and within 30 days matter is not taken before the adjudicating authority as prescribed. Therefore, it is ultra vires of section 17 (1) (A) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA)".
The court was informed that a provisional order dated November 26 was passed by the authority attaching the bank accounts.
Justice Kumar then inquired whether the same accounts and amount is involved in the said order. He said "If that be so then petition is rendered academic in nature."
To which Senior Advocate Kumar replied that five accounts including one which is a fixed deposit account, has not been attached under the provisional order. The amount in them is around Rs 1,32,86,000.
Assistant Solicitor General M B Nargund, appearing for ED, submitted that petitioners have an effective alternate remedy under the statute before the adjudicating authority and then the appellate authority before approaching the High Court and thus this is not a fit case to grant any relief.
It was also submitted by him that the company has been under surveillance since 2012 and it is not like one government has done it.
The court while posting the matter for passing orders on December 4, said:
"Your officer has written to the bank and the bank has told the petitioner we cannot disclose the order for reasons of confidentiality, perfectly alright. You produce to the court under what authority you have directed them to stop the transaction. It is a Fundamental right."
The trust has approached the court challenging the communication from August 25, issued by ED to the banks where it holds bank accounts. It is said that last year also it had approached the court after the same bank account had been frozen and the court had by way of interim relied allowed operation of the accounts. The very same accounts of previous proceedings and the accounts which are already dealt with by this court, are now again frozen.
A limited prayer is made to allow the petitioner to operate the accounts so that salaries and other statutory dues are paid.
Following the seizure of its bank accounts, Amnesty International announced in September that it was stopping its India operations.