3 Nov 2023 4:06 PM GMT
In an interview with veteran journalist Nidhi Razdan, Senior Advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal recently said the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is being used as an instrument of oppression by the government. “The PMLA is an instrument of oppression. It's as simple as that. It's an instrument by which you terrorize people,” he said. When Razdan pointed out that...
In an interview with veteran journalist Nidhi Razdan, Senior Advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal recently said the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is being used as an instrument of oppression by the government. “The PMLA is an instrument of oppression. It's as simple as that. It's an instrument by which you terrorize people,” he said.
When Razdan pointed out that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 was brought into force during the Congress Rule when he was part of the party, Sibal replied that the laws were not brought about with the intention of misusing them.
“We may have brought in PMLA but we never knew that the PMLA could be used in this fashion and we never used it in that fashion. All laws are fine, it's only the misuse of the laws that leads to this”.
He lamented how the PMLA is constantly being misused by the government to go after opposition leaders.
“Laws do not represent what we call justice. Justice comes through the court system. Laws are misused to destroy, to settle scores, to send a message. You know the PMLA is being used against the opposition leaders. Justice only comes when the court stands up and says you can't just do this. All this is now happening at the time of elections. In Chhattisgarh, in Jharkhand, in Rajasthan, in West Bengal, in Telangana, in Orissa, you name it. Every state where there's the opposition, you're having the same kind of problems,” he said.
"What world are we living in? and we call ourselves the mother of democracy?” he exclaimed.
Speaking on the rise of incidents of violence and hate speech and religious disharmony in the Country, Sibal said, "I can't think of another democratic country where this happens, boys in the class are asked to slap a young boy because of his religion. What has happened to that? Nothing has happened. Somebody is driving a car and runs over people, he gets bail. People are asked on the street to say Jai Shri Ram otherwise we'll beat you up. Which court has taken cognizance of it? If Justice Bhagwati were here, he would have taken suo motu cognisance of it. What are we doing to our country? And for what?”.
When Razdan pointed out that despite directions of the Supreme Court to curb hate speech, it is still rampant, Sibal responded “people defy the Supreme Court. They say we don’t care. If liberty dies in the hearts of men and women, no constitution, no courts, no law can save it. That’s what is happening.”
“Liberty is dead in India. No Constitution, no law, no court can save it because it is dead in the hearts of men and women in India including the courts,” he categorically stated in the interview.
When asked about whether courts are doing enough to protect civil liberties, Sibal answered “the problem is that in an environment of this nature, the court also goes along with the tide. But some judges are extraordinary, they do whatever they can.”
When asked about the recent rulings of the Supreme Court that have upheld and strengthened provisions of the PMLA and the UAPA, Sibal said “we talk about the rule of law, which is fundamental to democracy. But in fact in this country, there is only rule and there is no law”
Sibal expressed grave concern about the state of affairs in the country and the misuse of these statutes:
“'I'm very concerned and I'm speaking out today. Because today the situation in our country is anybody can be arrested at any time and the courts will not give you bail. Where are we going as a nation? How many times can you fight? Some people don't have the wherewithal to pay lawyers. Some of them are very poor and they suffer. In this state of affairs, what do you do as a lawyer? I ask myself this question quite frankly. Honestly I tell you, I know which court I go to and what's going to happen. Because every judge has a different mindset, some judges are liberal some judges won't listen to us. That's the way it is.”
Razdan also asked Sibal about the recent News Click case where the Chief Editor has been arrested under the UAPA following allegations of the news portal receiving money for pro-China propaganda. Sibal has been representing the incarcerated journalist in the Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court.
"The argument is that you sold your shares at a premium and you shouldn't have sold them at a premium and the person who gave you the money is actually now living in China. There were chartered accountants who cleared the deal. What's the act of terror in all this? I don't understand. But then of course, courts still don't give him bail" Sibal said.
Razdan asked Sibal about the people associated with Newsclick, including contributors and office staff who were questioned by the police and whose devices were seized without warrants. "Just from a legal point of view what happened to due process?" she asked.
“..this happens all the time. I mean this happens every day. You are talking about Newsclick because you are a journalist and Newsclick is an institution in itself and you're very concerned about it. Every citizen in this country dealing with the police suffers from this and nobody says a thing. Law and justice are two different things. You misuse the law and that's injustice. But law by itself doesn't represent justice.”
“Legally are the police allowed to just come and seize our devices?" Razdan asked Sibal.
“They cannot. What's the point of the privacy judgment? that you can just see somebody's mobile phone and just go through it? Some of these people don't have any evidence so they come and seize your phone, then they go through your phone, then they find out something, then they start questioning you about that. Without any paperwork, it is illegal. Even if if there was paperwork, what business do they have to take my phone and look at all the intimate conversations that a person has? What business does somebody have to just look through my phone? You know in a sense my phone represents my personality. You're destroying it by just seizing it and going through it. And then questioning me," Sibal replied.
Referring to the provisions of the UAPA prone to being misused by the government to curb dissent, Sibal said that as per the proposed new bill to substitute the Indian Penal Code, a wide definition is given for "terrorist".
“Now under the new law you know what the definition of a terrorist is? If you are an impediment in the supply of essential services, you are a terrorist. If you say something against the government, if you emotively charge people, you're a terrorist. If you give support to somebody you are part of that.”
When asked about Umar Khalid's bail plea in a case under the UAPA in connection with the Delhi Riots, which has been pending for over 3 years, Sibal said the matter is coming up in the Supreme Court soon and he did not wish to comment on it. "The court will decide", he said. Sibal is representing Khalid in the Apex Court in his bail plea.
No Hope Left In Supreme Court : Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal