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Chhattisgarh liquor scam: "Petitioners challenging PMLA provisions bypassing other forums," observes SC

New Delhi: Hearing pleas regarding the money laundering case relating to the Chhattisgarh liquor scam, the Supreme Court on Tuesday observed that there is a trend of filing petitions going on these days before the top court challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) bypassing other forums which are open to petitioners.
The observation of the bench of justices Bela M Trivedi and Prashant Kumar Mishra came when various petitioners on Tuesday sought to withdraw petitions challenging money laundering cases relating to the Chhattisgarh liquor scam and certain provisions of the PMLA. The top court said despite the Vijay Madanlal judgment passed by the Supreme Court last year, there is a trend prevailing in writ petitions filed before this court under Article 32 challenging the constitutional validity of certain provisions of PMLA which has been decided. The top court remarked that these reliefs are bypassing other forums open to petitioners.
Various petitions challenging money laundering cases relating to the Chhattisgarh liquor scam and certain provisions of the PMLA were withdrawn from Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The SC bench, however, granted liberty to petitioners to seek remedies available as per law in other appropriate forums. The top court said that this is becoming an alternate forum instead of going to High Court.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta submitted before the top court that these days people are approaching the supreme court to challenge the provisions of laws instead of asking for anticipatory bail. SG Mehta called such petitions an abused process of law. He urged the top court that the top court should make some observations otherwise it will keep going.
Chattisgarh's Excise official Niranjan Das and various others including Karishma Dhebar, Anwar Dhebar and Pinki Singh approached Supreme Court. They challenged certain provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The petitioner has also sought quashing of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in liquor irregularities matter in Chhattisgarh.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) is conducting an investigation into the liquor scam which ran between 2019 to 2022 in which corruption was done in multiple ways. The agency said the bribe was collected from the distillers per each case of liquor procured from them by the CSMCL.
ED investigation revealed that Arun Pati Tripathi through his direct actions at the insistence of Anwar Dhebar, corrupted the entire liquor system of Chhattisgarh to maximize corruption in the department. He made policy changes in conspiracy with his other colleagues and gave tenders to associates of Anwar Dhebar so that maximum benefits could be taken.
Despite being a senior ITS Officer and MD of CSMCL, he went against the ethos of the functioning of any State Excise Department. He used the State-run shops to sell unaccounted kacha liquor, ED alleged.
ED alleged that his complicit actions resulted in massive losses to the State Exchequer and filled the pockets of the beneficiaries of the Liquor Syndicate with more than Rs 2000 Crore in illegal proceeds of crime. He also received a substantial share in this loot.
Thus, the very objective of CSMCL to increase the State's revenue and to provide quality controlled liquor to citizens was violated by him for his personal illegal gains, read the official statement.
ED conducted consequential search operations at locations in Raipur, Bhilai and Mumbai and the searches resulted in the discovery of 53 acres of land in Naya Raipur having a book value of Rs 21.60 crore acquired by Anwar Dhebar by using proceeds of crime in the name of a JV.
This property was purchased through a maze of transactions in the name of an associate by routing proceeds of crime acquired from the FL-10A licensee. During recent search proceedings, ED has seized cash worth Rs 20 lacs and multiple incriminating documents, mentioned the official statement.
In searches in Mumbai, unaccounted investments worth around Rs 1 Crore, with a Share trading firm in the name of Arvind Singh and Pinki Singh, wife of Arvind Singh were found and the same have been frozen under PMLA.
Earlier, ED had frozen Fixed Deposits worth Rs 27.5 Crore from Trilok Singh Dhillon. Earlier, ED had seized jewellery worth Rs 28 Crore from the house of a Country Liquor Distiller. (ANI)

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