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Delhi High Court dismisses petition related to appointments and vacancies in Adjudicatory Authority

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The Delhi High Court dismissed as withdrawn the petition relating to the issue of appointments and vacancies in the Adjudicatory Authority under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

A Single Bench of Justice Prathiba M. Singh heard a petition, which was part of a batch of petitions, disposed of by the High Court vide judgement dated October 27, 2021. The lead matter in the batch of 17 petitions was titled J.K. Tyre and Industries v. Directorate of Enforcement. The present matter was kept pending, inter alia, to receive the status report qua the issue of appointments and vacancies in the Adjudicatory Authority under the PMLA . Thereafter, the matter has been listed from time to time before the Court.

Various status reports have been filed by the Respondent apprising the Court of the steps taken for filling up of vacancies. On the last date of hearing, Counsel for the Petitioner sought permission of the Court to withdraw the petition. However, Counsel for the Respondent sought time to seek instructions in respect of vacancies in AA-PMLA (Adjudicatory Authority under the PMLA).

The Respondent has filed an Affidavit of Sampada Mehta, Director-HQ-Department of Revenue dated 31st May, 2022.

From the affidavit the Bench noted that as far as the posts of Member (Administration) and Member (Law) are concerned, vacancies have been advertised and the meeting of the Selection Committee is to be held.

Ravi Prakash, Central Government Standing Counsel (CGSC) submitted that the meeting is likely to be held shortly and the Union of India is also interested in filling up these posts on an expeditious basis.

Further the Court noted that the posts of Administrative Officer and Registrar are still vacant. However, two officials from other Departments have been posted on these posts. Insofar as the post of Member (Finance or Accountancy) is concerned, the said position has also fallen vacant due to the fact that Shri. Vinodanand Jha, who was earlier holding the said position has been appointed as Chairperson, AA-PMLA.

In view of the Affidavit and submissions , the High Court directed that steps shall be taken for filling up all the vacant posts, especially, Member (Administration), Member (Law) and Member (Finance or Accountancy) on an expeditious basis and in any case within a period of four months . Insofar as the posts of Administrative Officer and Registrar are concerned, steps shall also be taken to fill the said posts on an expeditious basis.

As per the Affidavit, the post of Registrar has fallen under the category of ‘abolished’. An application is stated to have been moved by the Department of Expenditure with the UPSC for revival of the proposal for the said post. If the post of the Registrar is required in the AA-PMLA, an application shall be moved again for the revival of the said post within a period of four months , the Bench further directed.

Since the main petition has been dismissed as withdrawn, the Court ordered that the present order be placed before the Division Bench which is currently dealing with the matter titled Directorate of Enforcement v. J.K. Tyre and Industries which was the lead matter in the batch matters which the Court was hearing along with the present petition. “The Respondent shall place the next Status Report before the Division Bench.”

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