Pardon U/s. 306 CrPC Does Not Automatically Equate To Acquittal In PMLA Offence: Allahabad HC Rejects Plea Of Noida's Chief Engineer Yadav Singh's CA
The Allahabad High Court rejected a plea from the chartered accountant (applicant) of former Noida chief engineer Yadav Singh, to dismiss a case filed against him by the Enforcement Directorate under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). This PMLA case was connected to a prior CBI FIR. The CBI had filed a disproportionate assets case against Yadav Singh, his wife, daughters, son, daughter-in-law, and the CA on July 30, 2015. The case also involved three companies and a trust. It was alleged that Singh had acquired assets worth over Rs 23 crore between 2004 and 2015 during his tenure at the Noida authority, exceeding his known sources of income by 512.66%. Later on, applicant became an approver in the CBI case.
A Bench Justice Subhash Vidyarthi held that grant of pardon under Section 306 Cr.P.C. would not fall within the purview of the words ‘finally absolved by a Court of competent jurisdiction owing to an order of discharge, acquittal or because of quashing of the scheduled offence against him’. The Court added, “The pardon granted under Section 306 Cr.P.C. to a person in a scheduled offence would not ipso facto result in his acquittal in the offence under the PMLA, unless, of course, the accused person seeks pardon in the case under PMLA also by making a full and true disclosure of the whole of the circumstances within his knowledge relative to the offence under PMLA also.”
Advocate Dhruv Gupta appeared for the Applicant, Advocate Kuldeep Srivastava appeared for the Enforcement Directorate and Advocate Anurag Kumar Singh appeared for the CBI.
In his argument, applicant had contended that since he had been granted pardon in the main disproportionate assets case, and had become an approver against the principal accused, Yadav Singh, there was no apparent case against him under the PMLA.
Opposing his plea, the counsel representing the Enforcement Directorate, argued that the PMLA case was distinct from the disproportionate assets case. Therefore, he would not automatically be exempt from the PMLA case. He added that if the applicant sought relief based on his status as an approver in the disproportionate assets case, he should approach the special ED court and provide detailed disclosures regarding his co-accused individuals.
The Court noted several of the judgments referred in the affidavit filed in support of the application or supplied as a part of the compilation, were absolutely irrelevant and by supplying those judgments, the Counsel for the applicant had wasted the precious time of the Court.
The issue before the Court was whether grant of pardon under Section 306 Cr.P.C. would also fall within the purview of ‘finally absolved by a Court of competent jurisdiction owing to an order of discharge, acquittal or because of quashing of the scheduled offence against him’.
The Court held that an order for discharge or quashing of criminal proceedings occurs when no triable offense is evident against the accused based on the allegations. Acquittal is the outcome when the accused is found not guilty after a trial. In contrast, pardon is granted to individuals assumed to be connected to an offense, while it is not extended to those against whom no case has been established. The Court added, “Therefore, a person who is granted pardon under Section 306 Cr.P.C. in a scheduled offence, would not be a person who has been ‘finally absolved by a Court of competent jurisdiction owing to an order of discharge, acquittal or because of quashing of the scheduled offence against him’ mentioned in Vijay Madanlal Chaudhary (Supra), against whom no proceedings under PMLA can continue.”
The Court dismissed the application holding that there was no ground to quash the proceedings of the complaint filed against the applicant under the PMLA.
Cause Title: Mohan Lal Rathi v. Union of India & Anr., [2023:AHC-LKO:59826]