The Supreme Court today agreed to hear on May 10 a petition seeking direction to award consecutive sentence, instead of concurrent sentence to those convicted under the Prevention of Corruption Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Foreign Contributions Regulation Act, Prohibition of Benami Property Transaction etc.
The Petition, filed by BJP leader and Advocate Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay refers to a proposal put forth by Deputy Chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed SIT on black money, Justice Arijit Pasayat in April, 2016. Justice Pasayat had called for a more stringent PMLA with an increased jail term. He had then cited sentencing policies in the United States where such offenders are sentenced for up to 150 years, and was quoted as saying,
“How I wish we had such sentencing here. Those stealing one rupee and those laundering Rs 300 crore are given the same sentence here… While murder and attempt to murder are predicate offences, tax offences are still not included in the category. If you are evading massive amount of tax, that is murder of the economy which will eventually impact people.”
The Petition further points out that the recommendations made by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in 2012 have still not been implemented. Besides, it blames cash transactions for corruption and demands that cash transactions above Rs. 10,000 should be “restricted”, submitting,
“This is the biggest challenge to handle. Better training and a strong deterrent like immediate punishment can reduce connivance of employees in money laundering process by the bank management. Every suspicious case of money laundering needs to be taken seriously and not wished away by the top management as has been the case during recent times. With rising incidents of corruption in India, cases of money laundering are bound to rise. Need of the hour is to curb instances of money laundering to build a healthy financial system.”
The Petition then demands that Section 31 (sentence in cases of conviction of several offences at one trial) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 should be declared to be inapplicable to the special laws in question.
It also seeks constitution of a committee chaired by a retired Supreme Court Judge for examination of the Anti-Corruption Law, Benami Property Law and Anti-Money Laundering Law of developed countries, and take appropriate steps to implement their best practices. In the alternative, it demands a direction for such examination by the Law Commission of India instead.