No interim stay on property attachment of Virbhadra’s daughter, son: HC

New Delhi, April 6 (IANS) The Delhi High Court on Wednesday declined an interim stay on the Enforcement Directorate’s order to provisionally attach the properties of Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh’s son and daughter in a money laundering case.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath asked the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to file its response by April 18, the next date of hearing, after which the bench will take a decision on stay of ED’s provisional attachment order.

“Let the response by filed (by ED) by April 18. At this stage we can’t stay the order,” the bench said.

The ED’s action is “pre-emptive, presumptuous and arbitrary” and hence has “no authority to initiate attachment proceeding against the petitioners”, the chief minister’s daughter Aparajita Kumari and son Vikramaditya Singh said in their petition.

They sought the quashing and stay of the ED’s order of March 23 issued under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

The petitioners said the ED had attached Aparajita’s movable assets worth over Rs.15.85 lakh and Vikramaditya’s assets worth Rs.62.8 lakh.

Appearing for them, senior advocate Amit Sibal told the bench that Virbhadra’s children’s properties were attached even though they were not named in the first information report in the case and no chargesheet against them and their father.

“It’s a stigma to me that the day-to-day attachment of my properties continue,” Sibal said, seeking stay of the attachment proceedings.

The plea said the ED decision was based on the Income Tax department’s inquiries and investigation, which were themselves under challenge.

The petitioners said there were no allegations against them, though there was an alleged Income tax violation case against their father Virbhadra Singh. That too is pending adjudication before the Income Tax authorities, they pointed out.

The duo said they were also not summoned before the ED passed the attachment order.

“No property of the petitioners could have been attached without giving them an opportunity to explain the sources of the property under attachment,” the petitioners said.

“The allegations in the Enforcement Case Information Report do not disclose any offence of money laundering and thus the proceedings under the PMLA is bad in law.

“The duo have also challenged the recently amended second proviso of section 5(1) of the PMLA which provides that any property of any person may be attached if ED officer concerned has reasons to believe, on the basis of material in his possession, that if such property allegedly involved in money-laundering is not attached immediately, it is likely to frustrate any proceeding under the Act.

The petition sought that this proviso of the PMLA be declared unconstitutional, claiming it was contradictory to the scheme of the Act and violated the Constitution.

In November 2015, the ED registered a case under the PMLA at its New Delhi office against Virbhadra Singh and his family members, including his wife Pratibha Singh.

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