India: Search & Seizure Of Property Under AML Of India (Prevention Of Money Laundering Act, 2002 [PMLA])

Last Updated: 17 August 2017
Article by Vaish Associates Advocates

Search and seizure, as contemplated under Sec.17 of the PMLA, can be conducted only up on the satisfaction of the prerequisite conditions namely:

  1. the Director or any other officer authorized by him is in possession of some information, 
  2. that on the basis of such information he has reason to believe
  3. the reason for such belief has to be recorded in writing, and 
  4. that there are reasons to believe that any person
    1. has committed any act which constitutes money-laundering, or 
    2. is in possession of any proceeds of crime involved in money laundering, or
    3. is in possession of any records relating to money laundering, or
    4. is in possession of any property related to crime.

The Director, or any other officer authorised by him on this behalf, shall strictly satisfy the prerequisite conditions enumerated in section 17 of the PMLA, before the Director could direct search and seizure to be conducted in the premises of the  accused. On the basis of information in his possession, the director must have appropriate 'reasons to believe' that an offencehas been committed under the PMLA before invoking Section 17 of the PMLA. 

The search and seizure is a deprivation of civil liberty, and as such, principles of natural justice need to be adhered, by requiring the such reasons for such search and seizure, to be communicated to the aggrieved party. In absence of such a communication, the search and seizure so conducted is bad in law for the want of natural justice.

In the case of CIT & Ors. v. Oriental Rubber Works, [(1984) 1 SCC 700], while considering the powers of retention of seized documents under section 132 of the Income Tax Act, 1962, wherein the reasons for retention were required to be recorded in writing, but however, as in the case of section 17 of PMLA, there was no express requirement for communicating the reasons so recorded, the Hon'ble Supreme Court held that irrespective of there being no such requirement in the statute, the concerned officer is bound to communicate the said reasons, as the failure to communicate shall materially prejudice the person so searched under the provisions of section 132:

"4.           ...On a plain reading of the aforesaid provisions it will be clear that ordinarily the books of account or other documents that may be seized under an authorisationissued under Sub-sections (1) of Section 132 can be retained by the authorised officer or the concerned Income-fax Officer for a period of one hundred and eighty days from the date of seizure, where after the person from whose custody such books or documents have been seized or the person to whom such books or documents belong becomes entitled to the return of the same unless the reasons for any extended retention are recorded in writing by the authorized officer/the concerned Income Tax Officer and approval of the Commissioner for such retention is obtained. In other words two conditions must be fulfilled before such extended retention becomes permissible in law:' (a) reasons in writing must be recorded by the authorised officer or the concerned Income-fax Officer seeking the Commissioner's approval and (b) obtaining of the Commissioner's approval for such extended retention and if either of these conditions is not fulfilled such extended retention will become unlawful and the concerned person (i.e. the person from whose custody such books or documents have been seized or the person to whom these belong) acquires a right to the return of the same forthwith. It is true that Sub-section (8) does not in terms provide that the Commissioner's approval or the recorded reasons on which it might be based should be communicated to the concerned person but in our view since the person concerned is bound to be materially prejudiced in the enforcement of his right to have such books and documents returned to him by being kept ignorant about the factum of fulfillment of either of the conditions it is obligatory upon the Revenue to communicate the Commissioner's approval as also the recorded reasons to the person concerned. In the absence of such communication the Commissioner's decision according his approval will not become effective."

In the case of C.B. Gautam vs. Union of India (1993(1) SCC 78), a Constitution Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India held that the reasons to be recorderd in writing shall not only be incorporated in the order but also shall be communicated to the affected parties. The relevant extract from the judgement is as under:

"Sec. 269UD(1), in express terminology, provides that the appropriate authority may make an order for the purchase of the property `for reasons to be recorded in writing'. Sec. 269UD(2) casts an obligation on the authority that it "shall cause a copy of its order under sub-s. (1) in respect of any immovable property to be served on the transferor". It is, therefore, inconceivable that the order which is required to be served by the appropriate authority under sub-s. (2) would be the one which does not contain the reasons for the passing of the order or is not accompanied by the reasons recorded in writing. It may be permissible to record reasons separately but the order would be an incomplete order unless either the reasons are incorporated therein or are served separately along with the order on the affected party. Reasons for the order must be communicated to the affected party." 

This decision has been followed in various judgments by various Courts, including the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India.

The Hon'ble Supreme Court, in the case of M. P. Industries Ltd. v. IPO, [(1970) 2 SCC 32], while dealing with the powers under section 34(1) of the Income Tax, 1922, which required the officer to have 'reason to believe', has held that the expression 'reason to believe' in section 3 does not mean purely subjective satisfaction on the part of the Income Tax Officer and that the belief must be held in good faith and it cannot be merely a pretence. It was further held by the Supreme Court that it is open to the Court to examine whether the reasons for the believe have a rational connection or an element bearing to the formation of the belief and are not extraneous or irrelevant to the purpose of the section.

In the case of Mohammad Aslam Merchant v. Competent Authority, [(2008) 14 SCC 186], while dealing with similar requirements under section 68H of the Narcotics Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, Supreme Court of India has held that both the statutory elements, namely, "reason to believe" and "recording of reasons" must be premised on the materials produced before him and that such materials must have been gathered during the investigation carried out in terms of Section 68-E or otherwise. It was further held that indisputably, therefore, he must have some materials before him and that if no such material had been placed before him, he cannot initiate a proceeding.

So, there cannot be an offence of money laundering unless it can be shown that there exists some proceeds of crime.

You may also refer to the following link for details on anti-money laundering (AML) laws in India:

*Vijay Pal Dalmia, Advocate & Partner Vaish Associates Advocates
Email:   Mobile: 09810081079

© 2016, Vaish Associates Advocates,
All rights reserved
Advocates, 1st & 11th Floors, Mohan Dev Building 13, Tolstoy Marg New Delhi-110001 (India).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist professional advice should be sought about your specific circumstances. The views expressed in this article are solely of the authors of this article.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Vaish Associates Advocates
In association with
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


From time to time Mondaq may send you emails promoting Mondaq services including new services. You may opt out of receiving such emails by clicking below.

*** If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of services offered by Mondaq you may opt out by clicking here .


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.