Supreme Court Upholds Court’s Power to Grant Bail in Cases of Delayed Trial U/s 45 PMLA

In the recent case of Prem Prakash Vs. Union of India’, a bench of the Supreme Court led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, delivered notable oral observations shedding light on the interpretation of Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and its interaction with the right to bail guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.


Interpretation of Section 45 of the PMLA:

Section 45 of the PMLA delineates the conditions under which bail can be granted to an accused in a money laundering case. It mandates that bail can only be granted if two conditions are met: firstly, there must be prima facie satisfaction that the accused has not committed the offence, and secondly, there should be reasonable assurance that the accused will not commit any offence while on bail. However, Justice Khanna observed that this provision does not derogate from the inherent right to bail, particularly in cases involving prolonged incarceration and delay in trial.


Constitutional Right to Bail:

Justice Sanjiv Khanna underscored that the right to bail in cases of prolonged incarceration emanates from Article 21 of the Constitution, which guarantees the right to life and personal liberty. He emphasized that this fundamental right remains intact notwithstanding the provisions of Section 45 of the PMLA. Referring to the precedent set in the case of Manish Sisodia, where the Court recognized the right to apply for bail in cases of trial delay, Justice Khanna reiterated that this right cannot be abrogated by statutory provisions such as those in the PMLA.


Enabling Provision Vs. Disabling Provision:

In the exchange between Justice Khanna and the Additional Solicitor General (ASG), the interpretation of Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cr.P.C.) came under scrutiny. The ASG contended that undertrial detainees must serve at least 50% of the maximum sentence to seek bail due to trial delays, as per Section 436A Cr.P.C. However, Justice Khanna disagreed, asserting that Section 436A Cr.P.C. merely provides an enabling provision and does not restrict the Court’s authority to grant bail. He clarified that the Court retains the discretion to grant interim bail in cases of trial delay.


Judicial Disposition and Future Implications:

Although the bench initially leaned towards granting interim bail to the accused, it opted to adjourn the hearing by a month to monitor the progress of the trial. The Trial Court was directed to expedite the proceedings, preferably conducting them on a day-to-day basis. This decision underscores the judiciary’s commitment to safeguarding individual rights while ensuring the expeditious administration of justice.


Interpretation of Predicate Offences under PMLA:

During the proceedings, the bench also deliberated on the invocation of the PMLA in cases where criminal conspiracy under Section 120B of the Indian Penal Code is not linked to a scheduled offence. The ASG argued that if the complaint establishes predicate offences, the PMLA can be invoked irrespective of the specific sections mentioned. This debate highlights the evolving jurisprudence surrounding the interpretation of predicate offences under the PMLA and their nexus with scheduled offences.



The oral observations made by Justice Sanjiv Khanna in the ‘Prem Prakash Vs. Union of India’, case serves as a significant elucidation of the interplay between statutory provisions and fundamental rights in the realm of bail jurisprudence. By affirming the constitutional right to bail in cases of prolonged incarceration and trial delay, Justice Khanna reiterates the judiciary’s role in upholding individual liberties while ensuring the fair and expeditious administration of justice. This pronouncement sets a crucial precedent for future cases grappling with similar issues and underscores the judiciary’s commitment to protecting constitutional rights in the face of statutory provisions.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The content may not reflect the most current legal developments and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete, or up-to-date. Readers should consult a qualified legal professional before taking any action based on the information provided. The authors and publishers disclaim any liability for any loss or damage incurred as a result of reliance on this article. This article does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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