Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram's plea to see the evidence before it is placed before the court will adversely affect several cases involving economic offenders and terror funding, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta told the Supreme Court on Thursday.
Mehta, representing the Enforcement Directorate, was arguing before a bench headed by Justice Banumathi. He contended that if the court accepts Chidambaram's plea then it is bound to adversely affect other cases including those of Vijay Mallya, Mehul Choksi, Nirav Modi, Shardha chit fund, terror funding and others.
"Chidambaram's submission to confront him with the evidence before the same is placed before court is preposterous. It will lead to exposing evidences and witnesses in similar cases at an investigating stage," Mehta submitted before the court.
He further argued that at pre-complaint stage the prosecution is entitled to oppose bail based on material in its possession, and whether the accused's reply to its queries was evasive or not, is a decision within the ambit of the probe agency.
"Confronting the accused with evidence, it is an open invitation to tamper the evidence...cannot show the material even to the court, due to the sensitivity of the material," submitted Mehta.
He said that if the evidence was shown to the accused then he will immediately erase the details of the money trail. He referred to Chidambaram as an individual having resources and knowledge on the issues.
Maintaining the secrecy of the material in possession of the agency is vital, Mehta said adding it is best to confront the accused with evidence when he is in custody. And, if accused is confronted with evidence at a pre anticipatory bail stage, then this would destroy the case.
Arguing on the jurisdiction of the top court, Mehta said the court cannot be created as a regular court entertaining the appeal of the orders of the high courts, lower courts, and magistrates. "Supreme Court is meant to lay down the law," stated Mehta.
Mehta also justified the High Court's observation that the allegations against Chidambaram are grave.
"The quantum of punishment is no measurement of gravity of offence. What is relevant is the impact of the offence on society and the nation... Offences against the economy of the country... Economic offences are gravest of offences," contended Mehta in court.
Mehta rubbished Chidambaram's lawyers' argument that the alleged transaction took place in 2007-08 and that PMLA provisions, under which he is charged, were introduced in 2009. He informed the court that the offence has continued till date, and the money acquired, following these corrupt transactions, eventually helped Chidambaram acquire property and further launder.
On the retrospective effect of PMLA, Mehta argued that the Section 8 of PMLA, 2002 was in the statute at the very inception. Therefore, there is no retrospective imposition of charges on Chidambaram.
He told the court under specific sections of the Act, it is clearly held that those who assist or play an active role in shielding the laundered money, technically are also guilty of money laundering.
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