SC sends notice to Centre on vacant posts in ATPMLA

SC sends notice to Centre on plea regarding vacancies in money laundering tribunal

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The Supreme Court on Friday issued notice to the Centre on a plea to fill up vacant top posts at the Appellate Tribunal Prevention of Money Laundering Act (ATPMLA) in the national capital.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, R Subhash Reddy and M R Shah took note of the submissions of senior lawyer Mahabir Singh that the chairperson, members and other staff posts at ATPMLA are lying vacant since 2019.

Acting on a PIL filed by lawyer Amit Sahni, the bench sought a response from the Union Finance Ministry within four weeks.

The plea cited media reports of August 2019 saying that Delhi High Court's Justice Sunil Gaur, since retired, was to be appointed as chairperson of the tribunal. Justice Gaur was to succeed Justice Manmohan Singh on completion of his tenure in September 2019, the plea said.

"But the said appointment was thereafter not notified and the post of chairman is lying vacant since then," it added.

Referring to a response received under the Right to Information Act, the plea said there has been an acute shortage of secretarial and other staffers in the tribunal, adversely impacting its functioning.

The ATPMLA deals with "sensitive and crucial matters" pertaining to Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), Smugglers and Foreign Exchange Manipulators Act (SAFEMA), the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act (NDPS), Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) and the Prohibition Of Benami Property Transactions Act (PBPT).

The tribunal is mandated to consist of a Chairman, who has to be a retired Judge of this Court or a High Court and four members from the fields of law, finance and management. It is constrained to function with its sole member, the plea noted.

There are 2822 cases of PMLA, 66 cases of SAFEMA, 270 cases of NDPS, 1077 cases of FEMA and 1134 cases of PBPT pending before the Tribunal, against 23 vacancies, the petitioner said.