The Division Bench of the Supreme Court of India (SC), comprising Justice R F Nariman and Justice S K Kaul, has declared Section 45(1) of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (the Act) as unconstitutional insofar as it imposes two additional requisites for granting bail in addition to the conditions provided for in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973. The SC has held that these additional conditions are in violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India (Constitution).
The SC was dealing with a series of writ petitions and appeals, all challenging the constitutional validity of Section 45 of the Act.
Section 45(1) of the Act, imposes the following two additional conditions for grant of bail in cases involving an offence punishable for a term of imprisonment of more than 3 years under Part A of the Schedule to the Act:
It was contended by the Petitioners that imposition of the above two conditions for grant of bail was arbitrary and discriminatory, and in violation of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The arguments put forth by the Petitioner were as follows:
The arguments put forth by the Respondents were as follows:
The Court, after examining the history of precedents in light of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution of India as well as the principles in granting bail, held as follows:
Having held thus, the Court was pleased to strike down Section 45(1) of the Act as being violative of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. The Court also directed that pending matters under the Act, be remanded to Courts that denied bail on the ground of application of the provisions of Section 45(1) of the Act, for reconsideration in light of the SC’s judgment.
This ruling sheds much clarity on the jurisprudence of Article 14 and Article 21 of the Constitution. By striking down the restrictions on grant of bail as set out in Section 45(1) of the Act, the SC has rightly upheld the settled principles of natural justice enshrined in the Constitution.