Apex court upholds seizure of Iqbal Memons’s properties

April 27th, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, April 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court has upheld the seizure by the Maharashtra government of fugitive underworld don and drug smuggler Mohammed Iqbal Memon’s two flats in Juhu in Mumbai and his three bank accounts. The two-judge bench of Justices S.B. Sinha and V.S. Sirpurkar Thursday upheld the confiscation of the properties owned by the fugitive don - also known as Iqbal Mirchi and Iqbal Merchant - by the Maharashtra government in 1995.

Iqbal Memon, suspected to be presently holed up in Pakistan with another don Dawood Ibrahim, is wanted by the Central Bureau of Investigation for his role in the 1993 serial terror bombing in Mumbai besides various cases of drug trafficking lodged against him.

He also has an Interpol Red Corner Notice pending against him.

The state government had confiscated Memons’ properties, registered in his wife Heena Kausar’s name, in 1995 under the provisions of the anti-drug trafficking law, Prevention of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, 1988 (PINDPS Act).

Besides the three bank accounts of the Memons, the confiscated properties include two flats, numbering 501 and 502A, in Milton Apartments at Juhu Tara Road, Santacruz (West), Mumbai.

The authorities had confiscated Memon’s properties in 1995 as he, along with his wife, left India and remained incognito since 1991 after the state government served a detention order on him.

While staying abroad, the Memons earlier had challenged the confiscation before the Appellate Tribunal, Customs, which dismissed their appeal. Subsequently in 1999, they moved Bombay High Court, which, too, refused to interfere with the order.

Memon’s wife Heena Kausar subsequently moved the apex court through counsel Raju Ramachandran.

But dismissing her appeal, the apex court ruled: “The order of the high court dated Dec 15, 1999 has attained finality. The flats in question stood forfeited to the State Government. The said proceedings cannot be permitted to be reopened.”

While upholding confiscation of Memon’s properties, the bench also upheld the constitutional validity of the law that enables law-enforcing agencies to seize properties bought from money generated through drug-trafficking.

In her petition, Kausar had contended that a subsequent amendment, made in 2001 in the anti-drug trafficking law of 1989 vintage, imposes some restrictions in form of time limit on the state government from seizing properties of alleged drug smugglers.

The amended law gave some immunity to a particular category of alleged drug traffickers against seizure of their property, she contended adding that had these restrictions on time limit been there in the original law, her properties, too, could not have been confiscated.

She challenged the constitutionality of the law saying that it violates her right to equality, as enshrined in Article 14 of the Constitution, vis-a-vis other alleged smugglers.

But the bench overruled her contentions, saying: “Only because at a later stage, a period of limitation was prescribed for initiation of proceedings for forfeiture of the properties, the same, in our opinion, by itself would not be sufficient to arrive at a conclusion that the same attracts the wrath of Article 14 of the Constitution of India.”

“The nexus of huge amount of money generated by drug trafficking and the purpose for which they are spent is well known,” the apex court noted

“Necessity was felt for introduction of strict measures so that money earned from drug trafficking by the person concerned may not continue to be invested by purchasing movable or immovable properties not only in his own name but also in the name of his near relative,” the apex court observed.

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