The Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) – An Overview

Shivendra Pratap Singh


High Court Lucknow

Article | Criminal Law

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The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) is a significant legislative measure in India that deals with the issue of money laundering. Enacted to prevent the generation of money from illicit sources and its use for unlawful purposes, PMLA seeks to combat and control the menace of money laundering in India. Here’s an in-depth look into its various aspects:

Purpose of The Prevention of Money Laundering Act [PMLA]:

  1. Curb Money Laundering: The primary objective is to prevent money laundering and provide for the confiscation and seizure of property obtained from laundered money.
  2. Punish Offenders: The Act specifies rigorous punishments for individuals involved in money laundering activities.
  3. Enhance International Cooperation: Given that money laundering often involves cross-border transactions, the Act aims to foster cooperation among nations to combat this menace.

Key Provisions of The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA):

  1. Offence of Money Laundering: PMLA defines money laundering as an act where a person directly or indirectly attempts to indulge or assists other person(s) in any activity related to the proceeds of crime and projecting it as untainted property.
  2. Punishment: Anyone found guilty under PMLA can be punished with rigorous imprisonment ranging from three to seven years, along with a hefty fine.
  3. Reporting Entities: Banking companies, financial institutions, and intermediaries need to maintain a record of all transactions, verify and maintain records of all clients, and furnish the details to the specified authority.
  4. Authorities under PMLA: The Act has provisions for the establishment of authorities like the Adjudicating Authority, the Appellate Tribunal, and the Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU-IND) to implement the law effectively.
  5. Attachment of Property: The Act empowers the concerned authority to attach and confiscate properties believed to be “proceeds of crime.”
  6. Obligations on Reporting Entities: They are obligated to maintain records of all transactions, report if they suspect money laundering, and ensure client due diligence.


Over the years, the Act has seen various amendments to make it more effective. Key amendments include widening the definition of offenses under money laundering, making provisions more stringent, and ensuring that India’s laws align with international standards.


  1. Scope of PMLA: Some argue that the scope of PMLA is too broad, leading to potential misuse.
  2. Implementation Issues: Despite the Act’s robust framework, implementing it on the ground, given the complex nature of financial crimes, remains a challenge.
  3. Coordination among Various Bodies: Effective action requires coordinated efforts between various national and international bodies, which is sometimes lacking.


The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002, marks a critical step in India’s efforts to combat financial crimes. While the Act has been instrumental in curbing money laundering, consistent updates, rigorous implementation, and international cooperation are imperative for it to remain effective in an ever-evolving financial landscape.