The Allahabad High Court held that no person is entitled to evade summons issued under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA Act) on the ground that there is a possibility that he/she may be arrested in future.

The Lucknow Bench of the Court held thus in an application under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) moved by a man who had received summons under PMLA Act.

A Single Bench of Justice Mohd. Faiz Alam Khan observed, “The law declares that every such person who is summoned is bound to state the truth. At the time of such investigative process, the person summoned is not an accused. Mere registration of ECIR does not make a person an accused. He may eventually turn out to be an accused upon being arrested or upon being prosecuted. No person is entitled in law to evade the summons issued under Section 50 PMLA on the ground that there is a possibility that he may be arrested in the future.”

The Bench added that the investigation is still continuing and the accused has only been summoned to appear and submit certain documents which may be in his possession as he had been an employee of the companies under scanner, thus his prayer for quashing of ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) itself is premature as at this stage even the status of the applicant before the ED is not known and the same is in the realm of future.

Advocate Neeraj Jain represented the applicant/accused while Advocate Rohit Tripathi represented the opposite party/Enforcement Directorate (ED).

In this case, the applicant/accused had received summons requiring him to appear and furnish derails about 111 companies in respect of which not only a complaint was filed by Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) before the Special Judge, but a criminal case was also filed by ED, which was pending.

Another summon pertaining to ECIR was received by the applicant and the same arose out of the same recommendation of SFIO concerning 111 companies. It was submitted by the counsel that the issuance of summons in the ECIRs was nothing but an attempt to harass the applicant who was already facing prosecution by ED in an identical matter.

The High Court in view of the above facts said, “The copy of ECIR'S in question, which are sought to be quashed, has not been placed on record by the ED despite promise in this regard was extended by Ld Counsel representing Enforcement Directorate, thus this Court is not in a position to examine the contents of the same. It is stated that the copies of the ECIR'S may be placed before this Court in sealed cover for perusal. This Court is not inclined to promote the culture of sealed covers in judicial proceedings and this aspect of the matter, as to whether the ED in each and every case may refuse to provide the copy of ECIR to an accused person or even to a witness, may be deliberated in depth by this Court in an appropriate case, but suffice is to say that if there is nothing extra ordinary or special , in normal course, a person summoned by the ED in whatever capacity is required to get, at least the substance of accusation if not the copy of ECIR, so he can prepare himself accordingly or may also collect relevant documents to answer the questions which may be put by the ED when interrogating the person summoned.”

The Court noted that the inquiry or investigation, as the case may be, is required to be fair to all stake holders, moreso towards a person whose status before the ED is not known yet, but as of now it is not mandatory for ED to furnish a copy of ECIR'S to the person, as held by the Apex Court in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary and Ors. v. Union of India (UOI) and Ors. (27.07.2022 - SC) : MANU/SC/0924/2022, as the applicant has only been summoned under Section 50 of PMLA.

“This Court is of the considered opinion that this petition has been filed by petitioner on mere apprehension. If the Investigating Authorities are having enough materials to proceed against a person in a manner known to law and by adhering strictly to the provisions of law, then they are duty bound to do so as the law so warrants and permits them to adopt such course of action. These are all the decisions to be taken only after completing an effective investigation or atleast preliminary investigation. The investigation process should not be hampered at this initial stage. The decisions in this regard are to be taken only after the completion of the investigation by the competent authorities by strictly following the provisions of law”, it further observed.

The Court also said that the courts cannot presume that what possible actions could be taken by the competent authorities at this or that stage, even before the completion of the investigation and thus, the interference at this stage in respect of the facts and the circumstances of the case is unwarranted.

“At the cost of repetition it is reiterated that the petitioner himself is not aware as to whether he is being summoned under Section 50 of PMLA as an accused or as a witness, as already an ECIR was registered against him. The Directorate of Enforcement has not filed any complaint against the petitioner and he is yet not an accused in the present ECIR,S and it cannot be said at this uncertain stage that Directorate of Enforcement is identifying the petitioner as an accused, in absence of any formal accusation to this effect”, it concluded.

Accordingly, the High Court dismissed the application.

Cause Title- Saurabh Mukund v. Directorate of Enforcement Thru. Its Joint Director Lko. (Neutral Citation: 2024:AHC-LKO:26612)


Applicant: Advocates Neeraj Jain and Ram Prakash Pandey.

Respondent: Advocate Rohit Tripathi

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