New Delhi | The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea moved by the Popular Front of India's (PFI) student wing leader, KA Rauf Sherif, seeking a transfer of a money-laundering case lodged against him and others from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh to Ernakulam in Kerala.
A bench of Justices V Ramasubramanian and Pankaj Mithal said a special court in Lucknow dealing with cases lodged under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) cannot be said to be lacking in territorial jurisdiction to entertain the complaint.
"In any case, the lack of jurisdiction of a court to entertain a complaint can be no ground to order its transfer.
"A congenital defect of lack of jurisdiction, assuming that it exists, inures to the benefit of the accused and hence, it need not be cured at the instance of the accused to his detriment. Therefore, the first ground on which transfer is sought is liable to be rejected," the bench said.
With regard to the second ground that seven of the 10 accused in the case are residents of Kerala, the top court said this can hardly be a ground for ordering the transfer of the investigation.
"Similarly, the third ground that a majority of witnesses are also from Kerala or south India is also no ground to order the transfer of the complaint," it added.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had claimed that Sherif had received huge amounts of money in his bank accounts through suspicious transactions.
The Lucknow court framed charges against Kerala-based journalist Siddique Kappan and six others in the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case in December last year.
Kappan was arrested along with three others on October 6, 2020 while they were on their way to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh to report on the alleged gang rape and killing of a 19-year-old woman.
Besides Kappan, the other accused in the case are Sherif, Atikur Rahman, Masud Ahmad, Mohammad Alam, Abdul Razzak and Ashraf Khadir.
The ED had booked Kappan and the others in the PMLA case for allegedly obtaining money from a foreign country illegally and utilising it in acts against the interest of the nation.
The central agency has charged Kappan, Rahman, Ahmed and Alam with receiving money from the now-banned PFI to "incite riots".
Rahman is the national treasurer of the Campus Front of India (CFI), a student body of the PFI. Ahmed is the general secretary of the CFI's Delhi unit, while Alam is a member of the outfit as well as the PFI.
Sherif, the national general secretary of the CFI, had funded their trip to Hathras, the ED has claimed.