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2023 (5) TMI 1030 - HC - PMLA
Seeking recall of order - allegation of bias - application on which the said order was passed, does not contain any pleading in connection with the public speech made by AB - HELD THAT:- The application on which the impugned order was passed was filed by ED wherein it was mentioned that one of the accused who is presently in custody in the PMLA case i.e. KG lodged a complaint before the police station making false, frivolous and baseless allegations against the officers of ED. Copy of the complaint was neither served upon the ED nor upon the learned Special Court, PMLA.
Aspersions have been cast upon the investigation of ED. Based upon the inputs received from the media and elsewhere, ED came to learn that the said accused i.e. KG lodged a complaint before the CBI Court and before the Hastings police station against the officers of ED through the Superintendent, Presidency Correctional Home. The said accused along with other politically exposed persons were trying to lodge similar complaints against the officers of ED through the police authorities - Though ED did not make any specific prayer with regard to the relief(s) sought for and made an innocuous prayer for passing appropriate order on the submissions made in the body of the application, but the Court upon hearing submissions made on behalf of all the appearing counsels and upon perusal of documents placed before the Court passed the said impugned order.
The offence which ED is dealing with is under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 and the predicate offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and the Indian Penal Code is being investigated by CBI. It appears from records that the investigation started a couple of months back and the same has proceeded to a fair extent. Several high ranking politicians including Member of Legislative Assembly, Minister-in-Charge of Education, ex President of the West Bengal Board of Primary Education, several persons in the Bengali film industry have been arrested and taken in custody. Astronomical amount of cash, documents, evidences both physical and electronic have been seized from the custody of the accused - There is hardly any scope to afford prior opportunity of hearing in a proceeding under PMLA. If the proposition of the applicants that, prior opportunity of hearing be afforded before starting the investigation is to be accepted by the Court, then the investigating officers will never be able to conclude the investigation in a time bound manner. There may be several persons involved in an offence under the PMLA. It is for the investigating officer to decide as to who should be interrogated and when. It is not for the suspected/proposed accused or the accused to dictate terms upon the investigating officer as to how and in which manner the investigation should proceed.
The principle of adherence to natural justice thereby meaning that opportunity of hearing is to be given to a person prior to summoning him to give evidence is not the same in all branches of law. The said principle has a different connotation in a proceeding involving civil consequences but has an absolute contrary implication in a criminal proceeding. Application of the principle of natural justice in connection with PMLA and the predicate offences is practically nil. Summoning a person for interrogation in connection with a public scam of such humungous magnitude does not ipso facto imply that coercive step will be taken against him; neither does it suggest that he is an accused or a suspected accused - There is no application of the principle of natural justice requiring prior opportunity of hearing to be given to a person who may be required for investigating a crime.
In the instant case, the application for intervention and recalling has been filed by third parties not connected with the relief sought for in the writ petition. The applicants may be required for investigation purpose, but that does not mean that their presence will be necessary for adjudicating the writ proceeding. Intervention/addition of the applicants will in no way aid in disposal of the writ petition. The applicants can always put forward their defence and avail remedies in law, if at all, they are aggrieved by any act of the investigating agencies - The proceeds of crime have penetrated through several strata and have exchanged numerous hands. In such type of cases it is not unusual that threats and challenges will be there in practically each and every step. It is for the investigating officers to overcome the hurdle and unravel the truth to punish the offenders. The powers of the investigating officers to summon are not restricted to any particular person and the said power to investigate is to be utilized effectively to reach the goal.
It appears from the prayers made in the applications that recalling has been sought only for the portion of the order where direction has been passed for causing investigation of the involvement of the applicants. The applicants do not appear to be bothered by the investigation per se. It is only where direction has been passed to investigate their involvement, that the applicants oppose the same.
The act of the applicants in pressing the instant applications raises doubt in the mind of the Court that the same have been filed with mala fide intention to deter the investigating officers to follow through the process of investigation which has already opened up a box of worms with more to follow suit. The idea is to delay the entire process to the extent possible so that the real culprits can remain shielded. In fact, on account of filing the applications neither the ED nor the CBI appear to have proceeded any further - If the trend to delay the main investigation and intimidate the investigating officers is not dealt with appropriately at the very first stage, then the same will develop as a style and very many investigations in future may be held up for the same reasons. Such a move must be stubbed with an iron hand and upon imposition of exemplary costs so that the same has a deterring effect and similar offenders will be compelled to think a multiple time before adopting such a stand.
Thus, no relief can be granted to the applicants - application dismissed.