Challenge to the vires of PMLA Act 2002 on being passed as Money Bill rejected

Challenge to the vires of PMLA Act 2002 on being passed as Money Bill dismissed as Petitioner had no locus, being not aggrieved and on account of delay

ABCAUS Case Law Citation:
ABCAUS 2806 (2019) (02) HC

Important Case Laws Cited/relied upon by the parties
Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd.) and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors
Kusum Ingots & Alloys Ltd. v. Union of India and Anr (2004) 6 SCC 254

The Petitioner was a member of Rajya Sabha and  had filed a Writ Petition before the Hon’ble High Court challenging the constitutional validity of Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002

It was contended that the PML Act was enacted in year 2013 for the purposes of preventing the offence of money laundering and the confiscation of property derived from such offence. Before the year 2015, the Act was amended on various occasions through Ordinary Bills as defined under Article 109 of the Constitution of India. However, from the year 2015 most amendments to the PML Act have been enacted via Finance Acts as ‘Money Bills’, defined under Article 110(1) of the Constitution.

It was submitted that 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 Bill is restricted only to the specified matters and cannot include within its ambit any other matter.

The Petitioner relied upon an information given under Right to Information Act.

Further, it was submitted that the Constitution Bench of the Hon’ble Supreme Court in a similar issue with regard to the Aadhaar Act passed as a Money Bill, had settled that the decision of the Speaker on whether a Bill is a Money Bill or not, is justiciable.

It was submitted that the petitioner was not aware that such Bills were passed as Money Bills. It was only, after the information was taken under Right to Information Act, the picture became clear that the amendments of 2015, 2016 and 2018 were passed as Money Bills.

It was also submitted that only recently the Hon’ble Supreme Court decided a similar issue. According to the Petitioner, there is no issue of limitation in challenging a parliamentary enactment, more so when the amendments are unconstitutional.

It was also his submission that the High Court may exercise its discretionary jurisdiction in favour of the petitioner as the amendments were unconstitutional.

The Hon’ble High Court opined that the plea that the petitioner was not aware that such amendments had been carried out as Money Bills, was no reason to challenge the amendments, at least of the years 2015 and 2016 in the year 2019. In any case, merely because the petitioner came to know recently that such amendments have been carried out as Money Bills, would not justify the delay.

The Hon’ble High Court opined that even otherwise, the 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, did not answer the submission made by the Additional Solicitor General that the challenge, apart from being hit by delay and laches, was by a person who has no locus, being not aggrieved by the amendments.

The Hon’ble High Court noted that as rightly relied upon by the UOI, the Hon’ble Supreme Court had held that if passing of a legislation gives rise to a cause of action, a writ petition questioning the constitutionality thereof can be filed in any High Court of the country. It is not so done because a cause of action will arise only when the provisions of the Act or some of them which were implemented shall give rise to civil or evil consequences to the petitioner. A writ court, it is well settled would not determine a constitutional question in vacuum.

Accordingly the High Court held that it was not a case where exercise of its extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India was warranted.

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