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SC issues notice to Centre on plea to fill pending vacancies in PMLA Tribunal

SC issues notice to Centre on plea to fill pending vacancies in PMLA Tribunal

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By Garima Tyagi
New Delhi [India], January 29 (ANI): Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking direction to the Centre to fill the pending vacancies at Appellate Tribunal, Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in New Delhi expeditiously.
A Bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan seeks response from the Centre within four weeks.
The plea was filed by Advocate Amit Sahni who said that the government has failed to take adequate and appropriate steps on the filling of vacant posts in the tribunal.
"It is struggling to dispense justice particularly in absence of its Chairman and three members out of sanctioned strength of four and acute shortage of administrative staff," he said.
"This Court in numerous cases have held that justice delayed is justice denied but at the PMLA, New Delhi, which deals with sensitive and crucial matters pertaining to Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act 1976 (SAFEMA), The Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1985 (NDPS), Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA) and The Prohibition Of Benami Property Transactions Act, 1988 (PBPT), is struggling to dispense justice particularly in absence of its Chairman and three members out of sanctioned strength of four and acute shortage of administrative staff," the PIL stated.
Sahni in his petition filed through advocate Preeti Singh stated that in August 2019, media reported that the government had cleared the name of Justice Sunil Gaur's (former Judge, Delhi High Court) to be appointed as a Chairman, PMLA Tribunal, New Delhi just after completion of incumbent Justice Manmohan Singh's tenure in September 2019.
"But, the said appointment was thereafter not notified and the post of the Chairman is lying vacant since then," the plea added.
"The Tribunal is mandated to consist of a Chairman, who has to be a retired Judge of the top court or High Court and four members, who can be from the fields of law, finance and management. But, the Tribunal is constrained to function with its sole member and therefore sufficient number of matters cannot be taken up in absence of presiding officers," the petition stated.
"It is quite pertinent to note that one post of member fell vacant in 2018, and the tenure of the Chairman and two members were also completed in 2019," it said, adding that the tribunal is constrained to function with its sole member and therefore the sufficient number of matters cannot be taken up in absence of Presiding Officers.
"Further, there is a shortage of administrative staffs including, Registrars, Private Secretaries, Court Master etc. totalling to 23 vacant posts as on date," it added.
"The tribunal is supposed to hear appeals against court orders in money laundering cases filed by the Enforcement Directorate, or authorities that enforce acts like SAFEMA, NDPS or PMLA," it said while further contending that the scope ranges from forfeiture of property to illegal attachment of assets, but the functioning of the tribunal has hampered due to vacancies.
"The Advocate also made a representation to the government for expeditious filling of vacancies at tribunal but, no step has been taken by the government upon the same till date," said the petition.
"The very object for constituting tribunals is to supplement the functions of the High Courts and the other Courts and to ensure that the consumer of justice gets speedy redressal to his grievances. Due to a large number of unfilled vacancies, it is hampering the progress of the functioning of the Tribunal. Therefore there is an imminent need for expediting the process of selections and appointments to ensure speedy justice," the petition stated. (ANI)

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