New Delhi: Technology and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have aided economic offences like money laundering in becoming a real threat to the financial system of the country, the Supreme Court said on Monday, adding such crimes should be viewed with utmost seriousness.
Rejecting the bail plea of an accused in a money laundering case, the top court held that economic offences constitute a class apart and need to be visited with a different approach in the matter of bail.
“The economic offences having deep-rooted conspiracies and involving huge loss of public funds need to be viewed seriously and considered as grave offences affecting the economy of the country as a whole and thereby posing serious threat to the financial health of the country. Undoubtedly, economic offences have serious repercussions on the development of the country as a whole,” said the bench of justices Aniruddha Bose and Bela M Trivedi.
Writing the judgment for the bench, justice Trivedi maintained that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) clearly implicates a person for his involvement in any of the criminal activities like concealment, possession, acquisition, use of proceeds of crime as much as projecting it as untainted property or claiming it to be so.
“With the advancement of technology and Artificial Intelligence, the economic offences like money laundering have become a real threat to the functioning of the financial system of the country and have become a great challenge for the investigating agencies to detect and comprehend the intricate nature of transactions, as also the role of the persons involved therein,” the court said.
The investigating agency (Enforcement Directorate), the bench said, requires carrying out minute exercises to ensure that no innocent person is wrongly booked and at the same time no culprit escapes from the clutches of the law.
“When the detention of the accused is continued by the court, the courts are also expected to conclude the trials within a reasonable time, further ensuring the right of speedy trial guaranteed by Article 21 of the Constitution,” added the bench, even as it rejected the bail plea of Tarun Kumar, vice-president (Purchases) in Shakti Bhog Limited a director in various Shakti Bhog Group Companies.
Kumar, who was arrested by ED in August 2022 on charges of back fraud and siphoning of proceeds of crime, had sought bail on multiple grounds while emphasising that the investigation with respect to his alleged role is complete and that the trial of the cases was likely to take a long time.
But the bench shot down his plea, noting that Kumar has not been able to overcome the threshold stipulations contemplated in Section 45 of the PMLA for the grant of bail, namely that he has failed to prima facie prove that he is not guilty of the alleged offence and is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.
“There being sufficient material on record adduced by the respondent (ED) showing the thick involvement of the appellant in the alleged offence of money laundering, the court is not inclined to grant bail....it may be noted that as held in catena of decisions, the economic offences constitute a class apart and need to be visited with a different approach in the matter of bail,” added the bench.
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