‘Congress will repeal PMLA,’ says P Chidambaram; alleges its misuse to target Opposition

He said that the law was not "UPA's baby" as it was passed during the Vajpayee government but only notified under the Manmohan Singh regime.


Published Feb 07, 2024 | 10:16 AMUpdatedFeb 07, 2024 | 10:16 AM

P Chidambaram

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has said that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, is being “completely misused” to target Opposition leaders and if his party returns to power, it would repeal the law to enact better legislation.

The former Union finance minister also said that the law was not the “UPA’s baby” as it was passed during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government and only notified under the Manmohan Singh regime after pressure was mounted by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

“This law has been completely misused, which is why I have been saying that if the Congress comes back to power, we will repeal this law and reenact a better law. This is on top of the agenda,” Chidambaram told Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal during the latter’s Dil Se YouTube programme that was released on Tuesday, 6 February.

“This law has vested arbitrary and untrammelled power upon one investigating agency which is now more powerful than all the other investigating agencies,” the senior Congress leader, who heads the party’s manifesto committee for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, said.

Discussion on PMLA

During the conversation between the two United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government ministers, Sibal claimed that the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is “the most draconian law in the history of this country”.

Talking about the PMLA, Chidambaram said it was passed under the Vajpayee government and notified under the UPA after pressure was mounted by FATF.

“This was not UPA’s baby and little did we know that it would be grossly misused,” he said. Chidambaram also said the schedule of this Act has made it worse.

“The schedule was inserted in the original Act. It was a short schedule with Part A and Part B. But this schedule has been amended twice or more and major amendments were made in 2013 and 2018,” Chidambaram said.

He stressed that the expansion of the schedule to the Act during the UPA period was a wrong step.

“Schedule should have been kept tight. I admit that the enlargement of the schedule was clearly wrong,” Chidambaram said.

Talking about the Supreme Court verdict upholding the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) powers under the PMLA, the Congress leader said the judgement is contrary to the well settled principles of the law and the review petition that has been filed is a comprehensive one.

“Unfortunately, the review petition has not been posted for hearing. This must be reviewed and at the earliest,” he said.

Sibal said the court’s earlier verdict needs to be reviewed at the earliest because the 2024 general elections are round the corner and the law is being used against every opposition leader in this country.

Also Read: Supreme Court refuses to interfere with Hemant Soren’s arrest by ED

Governance is already broken down: Sibal

Chidambaram noted that ministers and even a chief minister had been arrested under the law which, he claimed, had never happened earlier.

“This is not the concept of federalism that had been thought of by the founders. Imagine if state government starts arresting Union ministers. Every minister belongs to a state… if the tables are turned and the state government starts doing it under regular criminal laws against Union ministers, governance will break down,” Chidambaram said to which Sibal responded saying, “It has already broken down”.

Sibal alleged that the ED has targeted opposition states, leaders, and sitting chief ministers, and is threatening to arrest them at the cusp of the 2024 polls.

Chidambaram said that this is why the Congress calls the BJP the “great washing machine” as the moment a leader crosses over to the BJP, all past “sins are washed away”.

He alleged that the ED is completely “politically driven” and indulges in coercing statements from the accused. “The only way is to repeal this law and constitute a group of jurists to draft a proper prevention of money laundering law,” Chidambaram said, adding that it was one of the most draconian laws.

He added that Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002 (POTA) was equally draconian but it created a huge amount of communal conflict.

Also Read: ED searches against Delhi CM Kejriwal’s PA, persons linked to AAP

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