HC Criticizes Overnight Statement Recording by Enforcement Directorate

Given Issrani's prior cooperation with the ED on multiple occasions, the court suggested that he could have been summoned at a more suitable time rather than being detained past midnight.

HC Criticizes Overnight Statement Recording by Enforcement Directorate

In a significant ruling, the Bombay High Court recently dismissed a plea filed by a 64-year-old businessman who alleged an 'illegal' arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). The court, in its decision, strongly criticized the manner in which the businessman was detained overnight in the ED office and subjected to statement recording during that time. This practice, the court asserted, violated the individual's 'right to sleep' guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution, which enshrines the right to life with dignity.

Fundamental Human Right at Stake

Highlighting the importance of this fundamental human need, the court emphasized that depriving an individual of sleep not only infringes upon their human rights but also adversely affects their health and cognitive abilities. The judgment underscored the necessity for statements to be recorded during reasonable hours, rather than late at night when cognitive functions may be impaired. Expressing disapproval of the observed practice, the court directed the Enforcement Directorate to formulate guidelines concerning the timing of statement recordings under Section 50 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). These guidelines are expected to ensure that statements are taken during 'earthly hours,' aligning with the principle of respecting individuals' rights and well-being during investigative procedures.

Contentions and Counterarguments

The ruling came in response to a plea filed by Ram Kotumal Issrani, seeking to overturn orders from a special court that remanded him into custody over allegations of involvement in a bank fraud. Despite the dismissal of Issrani's petition for lacking merit and finding no illegality in his arrest, the court made notable observations regarding the circumstances surrounding the overnight recording of his statement. A report published in the Indian Express quoted Issrani, who argued against the urgency of recording his statement post-midnight, suggesting it could have been scheduled for a more reasonable time. However, special public prosecutor Hiten Venegaonkar, representing the ED, countered this argument, citing Issrani's lack of objection to the late-night recording.

Critique of Late-Night Recording

The court criticized the practice of late-night statement recording, emphasizing that individuals summoned under Section 50 of the PMLA are not necessarily accused but could be witnesses or possess relevant information regarding the investigated offense. As such, the court asserted that statements should be recorded during hours conducive to clear and coherent communication, unless the agency has compelling reasons to believe otherwise.

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