Home / News / India /  Kochhar questions PMLA tribunal status

Former ICICI Bank managing director Chanda Kochhar’s husband, Deepak, has questioned the independence and impartiality of the appellate tribunal for Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Deepak Kochhar, who is facing charges of money laundering, has said that the administrative control of the judicial tribunal is with the finance ministry, which is also the administrative ministry of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is investigating the case. Terming this “illegal, capricious and mala fide", he has argued that it should come under the ministry of law.

Kochhar’s submission was made in a petition filed in the Delhi high court through his lawyer Vijay Aggarwal, and has been reviewed by HT. The ministry of finance did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment.

The petition cites a Rajasthan high court judgement of 28 January, which has directed the Centre to comply with the May 2010 judgement of the SC constitution bench in the matter of Union of India Vs R. Gandhi and Others (2010). The apex court said in the judgement that “the administrative support for all tribunals should be from the ministry of law and justice. Neither the tribunals nor its members shall seek or be provided with facilities from the respective sponsoring or parent ministries or concerned departments."

The Delhi high court has agreed to examine the matter and issued notices to the Centre and the ED. The finance ministry’s department of revenue is a government arm, Aggarwal pointed out, and said that according to Article 50 of the Constitution of India, the State should take steps to separate the judiciary from the executive. Despite itself being a litigant before the appellate tribunal, Aggarwal has argued, ED controls it.

“There has been a consistent and constant effort of ministry of finance to keep the administrative control of the PMLA tribunal with itself despite directions from the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India," read the petition dated 8 February, filed on behalf of Deepak Kochhar’s firm NuPower Wind Farms Ltd.

“The appellate tribunal constituted under the provisions of Section 25 of the PMLA is not an independent and impartial forum. Since the parent department of the sponsoring department i.e. Directorate of Enforcement (ED) is having the administrative control of the tribunal, it is a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner that the appellate tribunal will not function in an independent and impartial manner."

The petition further said that “such is the level of administrative control the Department of Revenue that not only the staff and judges of the PMLA appellate tribunal is appointed by it, but the very premises of the tribunal is in the headquarters of ED in New Delhi."

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