Despite its expansive scope and stringent provisions, the efficacy of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) in combating money laundering continues to be contested. Analyze.


Delhi Court Slams ED For Faulty PMLA Probe, Says ED must introspect steps to ensure expeditious & fair investigations.


  • Briefly introduce the PMLA as a critical legislation aimed at curbing money laundering, emphasizing its origin in combating drug money laundering.
  • In the main body, outline the Act’s scope and provisions, including its definition of money laundering, predicate offenses, enforcement authorities, and penalties. Next address its efficacy, highlighting both achievements (strengthened legal framework, asset recovery, and international cooperation) and challenges (over-broad scope, civil liberties impact, enforcement inconsistencies, and capability gaps).
  • In Conclusion, acknowledge the PMLA’s role in India’s anti-money laundering efforts while suggesting the need for balanced enforcement and adaptation to emerging threats.


The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, was established as a pivotal legislative measure aimed at curbing the laundering of black money, particularly with an emphasis on money generated through international drug trafficking.

Scope and Provisions of PMLA:

  • Comprehensive Definition of Money Laundering: covering a wide range of activities that involve dealing with proceeds of crime, including their concealment, possession, acquisition, or use.
  • Inclusion of Predicate Offenses: the Act has expanded its ambit through amendments to cover crimes beyond drug trafficking including fraud, corruption, and organized crime.
  • Specialized Enforcement Bodies: The establishment of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and Financial Intelligence Unit-India (FIU-IND) has bolstered the operational capacity to enforce the provisions of PMLA.
    • Wide-ranging powers for investigation, seizure, and attachment of property obtained from laundered money.
  • Rigorous Penalties: for those found guilty of money laundering, including imprisonment of up to seven years and substantial fines.
  • Reverse Burden of Proof: where the accused is presumed guilty unless they can prove their innocence, a significant shift from the traditional criminal justice principle of ‘innocent until proven guilty’.

Efficacy of PMLA in Combating Money Laundering:


  • Strengthening India’s Legal Framework: against money laundering, providing a comprehensive approach to detecting, deterring, and punishing financial crimes.
  • Facilitates International Cooperation: for the extradition of accused individuals, sharing of financial intelligence, and mutual legal assistance, aligning India with global standards set by bodies like the FATF.
    • United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, 1988.
  • Asset Recovery: The Act’s provisions for the attachment and confiscation of assets derived from money laundering have been effective in disrupting the financial flows from criminal activities.
    • ED has attached movable and immovable assets of Nirav Modi and associates.
  • Enhanced Surveillance: Mandatory reporting requirements for financial institutions under PMLA have improved the surveillance of financial transactions, leading to better detection and prevention.
    • Maintain detailed records of transactions, report suspicious transactions, and comply with “Know Your Customer” (KYC) norms.


  • Over-broad Scope: The inclusion of a wide array of offenses in the Act’s schedule has been criticized for potentially overextending its reach, overwhelming the judicial system with cases not directly related to money laundering.
  • Impact on Civil Liberties: The stringent bail provisions and reverse burden of proof under the PMLA impinge on personal liberties and the right to a fair trial, affecting the balance between ensuring security and safeguarding individual rights.
  • Inconsistencies in Enforcement: of PMLA provisions, with some critics pointing to instances of selective application or misuse for political or other non-judicial ends.
  • Capability Challenges: due to lack of specialized training for investigators and prosecutors, and the complexity of tracing illicit financial flows, especially with the advent of cryptocurrencies and digital assets.
  • International Coordination hurdles: due to challenges of cross-border legal coordination and information sharing. This reduces efficiency in combating global money laundering networks.

To enhance PMLA’s efficacy, there is a need to invest in specialized training for enforcement, streamline legal processes, update provisions for new threats like cryptocurrencies, and ensure a balance between stringent enforcement and protecting individual rights.

‘+1’ Value Addition:

  • PMLA rules were amended in 2023 with some important inclusions:
    • More entities covered: NGOs, company formation personnel, and registered address providers now need to report.
    • Easier beneficial owner identification: Lower threshold (10%) for identifying who truly controls companies and trusts.
    • Faster client due diligence: Reporting entities must obtain client info promptly from third parties or a central registry.
    • Improved suspicious activity reporting: Faster reporting of suspicious transactions to authorities.
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