Del HC | Petition challenging amendments to PMLA by “Money Bills” dismissed [Reports with submissions by P. Chidambaram and Maninder Acharya]

Delhi High Court: The Bench of Rajendra Menon, CJ and V. Kameshwar Rao, J. dismissed a petition filed by Jairam Ramesh of the Rajya Sabha challenging the amendments to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 vide the Finance Acts of 2015, 2016 and 2018.

The petitioner submitted that before 2015, PMLA was amended on various occasions through Ordinary Bills. However, since 2015 most amendments to PMLA have been enacted vide Finance Act as “Money Bills” defined under Article 110(1).

Submissions by Senior Advocate P. Chidambaram appearing for the petitioner:

(a) A Money Bill is deemed to be such if it contains only provisions dealing with all or any of the matters under (a) to (g) of Article 110 (1). In other words, a Money Bills is restricted only to the specified matters and cannot include within its ambit any other matter.

(b) Amendments made in the years 2015, 2016 and 2018 were per-se unconstitutonal and liable to be set aside.

(c) On justiciability of the issue- K.S. Puttaswamy v. Union of India, (2019) 1 SCC 1 has settled that decision of the speaker on whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not is justiciable.

(d) On delay in challenge- Petitioner came to know that such Bills were passed as Money Bills only after the information taken under RTI Act. There is no issue of limitation in challenging a parliamentary enactment, more so when amendments are unconstitutional.

Submissions by Additional Solicitor General Maninder Acharya for the Union of India:

(a) Petition challenging amendments effected in 2015, 2016 and 2018 on the behest of a person not affected by the amendments must not be entertained.

(b) Reliance placed upon Kusum Ingots and Alloys Ltd. v. Union of India, (2004) 6 SCC 254.

After hearing the learned counsels, the High Court was of the opinion that merely because the petitioner came to know recently that such amendments were carried out as Money Bills would not justify the delay. The Court observed, “Mr Chidambaram’s  submission that it was only after the judgment was rendered by the Supreme Court, on a similar issue, did the petitioner thought it fit to challenge the amendments of 2015, 2016 and 2018 by filing this petition, does not answer the submission made by Ms Acharya that the challenge, apart from being hit by delay and laches, is by a person who has no locus, being not aggrieved by the amendments.” Finding the reliance placed by Maninder Acharya on Kusum Ingots justified, the High Court declined to exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction. [Jairam Ramesh v. Union of India, 2019 SCC OnLine Del 7367, decided on 28-02-2019]

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