PMLA Completely Misused, Will Enact Better Law If Congress Returns To Power: P Chidambaram

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Tuesday criticized the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA), stating that it is being "completely misused" to target opposition leaders. He emphasized that if the Congress returns to power, it would repeal the law and enact better legislation, reported news agency PTI.

"This law has been completely misused and which is why I have been saying that if Congress comes back to power, we will repeal this law and reenact a better law. This is on top of the agenda," Chidambaram told Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal during the latter’s "From the heart" YouTube program that was released on Tuesday.

Chidambaram clarified that the PMLA was not passed during the UPA’s tenure but during the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. It was only notified during Manmohan Singh’s regime due to pressure from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), he said, as per the PTI report.

He highlighted concerns about the extensive powers granted to one investigative agency under the PMLA, making it more dominant than others. "This law has vested arbitrary and untrammeled power upon one investigating agency which is now more powerful than all the other investigating agencies," the senior Congress leader said.

During the programme, Rajya Sabha MP Kapil claimed that the PMLA is "the most draconian law in the history of this country".

Talking about the PMLA, Chidambaram also said the schedule to this Act has made this Act worse. "The schedule was inserted in the original Act. It was a short schedule with Part A and Part B. But this schedule has been amended twice or more and major amendments were made in 2013 and 2018," he stated, according to PTI.

He stressed that the expansion of the schedule to the Act during the UPA period was a wrong step.

"Schedule should have been kept tight. I admit that the enlargement of the schedule was clearly wrong," Chidambaram said.

He criticized the Supreme Court’s verdict upholding the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) powers under the PMLA, calling it contrary to the well-settled principles of the law and the review petition that has been filed is a comprehensive one.

"Unfortunately, the review petition has not been posted for hearing. This must be reviewed and at the earliest," he said, the PTI report added.

Both Chidambaram and Sibal expressed concerns that the PMLA is being used against opposition leaders ahead of the 2024 elections, with the ED allegedly targeting them.

Chidambaram noted that ministers and even a chief minister had been arrested under the law which, he claimed, had never happened earlier. "This is not the concept of federalism that had been thought of by the founders. Imagine if state government starts arresting Union ministers. Every minister belongs to a state… if the tables are turned and the state government starts doing it under regular criminal laws against Union ministers, governance will break down," Chidambaram said to which Sibal responded saying, "It has already broken down." PTI reported.

Chidambaram accused the ED of being politically motivated and advocated for the repeal of the PMLA. "The only way is to repeal this law and constitute a group of jurists to draft a proper prevention of money laundering law," Chidambaram said.