The Delhi High Court Tuesday restrained the Enforcement Directorate from taking any further action pursuant to the attachment of Amnesty International India's funds in connection with a money laundering case.
The high court also directed that a status quo shall be maintained until the organisation's appeal against the confirmation of the concerned attachment order is taken by the Appellate Tribunal which is presently not functional.
Justice Rekha Palli, while hearing a petition by the organisation to prevent the transfer of attached funds, clarified that her order shall "merge" with any order that may be passed by the Appellate Tribunal subsequently.
"The writ petition is partly allowed by directing that till the appeal and the stay application are taken up by the Appellate Tribunal, parties will maintain status quo. Consequently, the respondent (Enforcement Directorate) will remain restrained from taking action pursuant to the impugned order. This order will merge with any order passed by the Appellate Tribunal," the court ordered.
Similar directions were also passed by the judge on a petition against the confirmation of a similar provisional attachment order passed against ‘Indians For Amnesty International Trust'.
The order was passed that after the two petitioners stated that while they have preferred a statutory appeal against the confirmation of the attachment order passed by the Adjudicating Authority, the same is unlikely to be taken up on account of the Appellate Tribunal under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, being non-functional.
The judge noted that the petitioners' claim about the status of the Appellate Tribunal was not disputed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) lawyer Amit Mahajan.
In its petition filed through lawyer Arshdeep Singh, Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd stated that on August 6, the Adjudicating Authority confirmed the attachment of its fixed deposits and certain bank accounts, which were provisionally attached earlier this year pursuant to a money laundering case being probed by the ED.
It said that since April, all matters before the Appellate Tribunal are being re-notified en bloc to other dates after the expiry of the tenure of its acting Chairman and therefore, there was an apprehension that the appeal would be rendered infructuous.
In a scenario where the Centre has not issued any notification for the appointment of a Chairman and/or Members, the functioning of the Appellate Tribunal is likely to remain suspended for an indefinite period of time, the petition said.
"For that on account of the continued absence of a coram of the Hon'ble Appellate Tribunal, the petitioner's legal right to seek an ad-interim stay on the operation of the Impugned Order is foreclosed, and its Application dated 25.10.2021 will be rendered infructuous if the same is not decided by a competent Court," it added.
In its petition, Amnesty International India has also said that while conforming to the provisional attachment order, the Adjudicating Authority not only acted in blatant violation of the principles of natural justice but also overlooked complete "non-application of mind" by ED officials.
The petition also alleged non-compliance with the requirement of recording "Reasons to Believe" under Section 5(1) of the PMLA.
The money laundering case of the ED is based on a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR against Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd (AIIPL), Indians for Amnesty International Trust (IAIT), Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT), and Amnesty International South Asia Foundation (AISAF) that was filed for the alleged violation of various sections of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) and the section 120 B of the Indian Penal Code (which denotes criminal conspiracy).