The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to stay the Enforcement Directorate’s summons to Peoples Democratic Party Mehbooba Mufti in an alleged money laundering case, Live Law reported. Mufti will now have to appear for questioning before the central agency on March 22.
She was first called in for interrogation by the central agency, which investigates financial crimes, on March 15. She was summoned under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002.
The former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister had then moved the High Court in favour of quashing the investigation against her. On March 10, the court had stayed the summons, and asked the Enforcement Directorate to not push for Mufti’s personal appearance.
During the court proceedings on Friday, advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, appearing for Mufti, argued that on the last date of hearing, the Enforcement Directorate had been “kind enough” to submit that its investigators would not insist on her appearance until March 19. Ramakrishnan urged the court to ask the ED to do the same this time as well.
But Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the Centre and the ED, denied this. “We were not kind,” he said. “The circumstances were such.”
After hearing the arguments, the court refused the stay, and posted the matter for hearing on April 16.
Mufti had challenged the validity of the summons, contending that the Enforcement Directorate had not specified the case for which she was being investigated. In her plea, the PDP chief said that she was not informed if she was summoned as a witness or an accused.
Her plea also challenged the constitutional validity of Section 50 and other provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, or PMLA.
Section 50 of the Act empowers the authority to summon any person to provide evidence on produced records. Those summoned were bound to answer questions and to produce the documents to the Enforcement Directorate, failing which they can be penalised under the Act.
In her plea, Mufti noted that Section 66 of the PMLA states that information, including compelled statements, can be shared with other agencies.
This means that such a statement may be used for offences under other laws, while being treated as evidence. This counters the right to protection against self-incrimination under Article 20(3) of the Constitution, she said.
Mufti argued that none of the protections against compelled self-incrimination, whether it is under the Constitution or any other statutes, govern Section 50 of the PMLA. This makes the section arbitrary and discriminatory, she contended.
The PDP chief had sought an interim stay on the summons till the question in relation to the constitutionality of Section 50 of the Act was decided.