Supreme Court Clarifies: No Breach of Section 19 PMLA if Accused Informed of Arrest Grounds within 24 Hours by ED

In a recent judgment, the Supreme Court of India clarified the legal requirements for informing an arrested person about the grounds of their arrest. The case involved a person arrested for money laundering under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The Court’s decision emphasized the importance of adhering to the procedural safeguards outlined in Section 19 of the PMLA and Article 22(1) of the Constitution.

According to Section 19 of the PMLA, authorized officers must inform the arrested person of the grounds for their arrest “as soon as may be.” In interpreting this provision, the Supreme Court held that the expression “as soon as may be” should be understood as “as early as possible without avoidable delay” or “within a reasonably convenient” period of time. The Court further elaborated that a reasonably convenient or requisite time to inform the arrestee about the grounds of their arrest would typically be within twenty-four hours of the arrest.

The Court emphasized that the provision in Section 19 of the PMLA imposes a duty on concerned officers to forward a copy of the arrest order along with any supporting material to the Adjudicating Authority immediately after the arrest. Additionally, the person arrested should be taken before the appropriate court within 24 hours of the arrest. These measures ensure that the arrestee is promptly informed of the grounds for their arrest.

In this particular case, the appellant who was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was handed a document containing the grounds of their arrest at the time of arrest. The appellant acknowledged receipt of the document by signing below the grounds of arrest and endorsing that they were informed and had read the aforementioned grounds. The legal question before the Court was whether the arrest would be deemed illegal if the ED took back the document without furnishing a copy to the arrestee at the time of arrest.

The Supreme Court’s ruling clarified that it is sufficient for the person arrested to be orally informed of the grounds of their arrest at the time of apprehension and subsequently provided with a written communication within 24 hours. In other words, the person asserted that if they are informed orally about the grounds of arrest at the time of their detention and then furnished a written communication within a reasonably convenient and requisite time period of twenty-four hours, it would comply with the requirements of both Section 19 of the PMLA and Article 22(1) of the Constitution.

The Court’s decision aligns with a previous Supreme Court judgment in the Vijay Madanlal case, which ruled that informing the arrested person about the grounds of their arrest is sufficient compliance with Section 19 of the PMLA and Article 22(1) of the Constitution.

Based on these legal principles, the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal before it, reasoning that the arrested appellant was duly informed of the reasons for their arrest. This judgment reinforces the importance of adhering to the prescribed timeframes and processes when arresting individuals, ensuring their fundamental rights are protected.

[RK Arora vs Director of Enforcement]

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