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SC Grants Bail to Sanjay Singh in Delhi Alleged Liquor Policy Scam after Reprimanding ED

SC Grants Bail to Sanjay Singh in Delhi Alleged Liquor Policy Scam after Reprimanding ED

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Manas Dasgupta

NEW DELHI, Apr 2: The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to the Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh while posing tough questions to the Enforcement Directorate for keeping him in jail for over six months without any trial or finding the trail of the Rs two crores bribe he was alleged to had taken in connection with the Delhi liquor scam policy.

The AAP MP Mr Singh was arrested by the ED allegedly for taking Rs two crores bribe for allotting liquor licenses to the “South Group.” “Nothing has been recovered… there is no trace (of money allegedly received by the AAP as bribes for allotting liquor licences to the ‘South Group’)…” the bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna, Dipankar Datta, and Prasanna B Varale told the agency, which claims the party received ₹ 600 crore in bribes.

Delhi minister and AAP leader Atishi took the opportunity to slam the Centre pointing out that the Supreme Court hearing, after which Sanjay Singh was granted bail, has vindicated the party’s stand on several counts. The primary one was that the ED, which has been investigating the alleged liquor scam over the last two years, has been unable to trace the alleged bribe money or find its trail — a point that AAP has made repeatedly. The other was the alleged coercion of witnesses, which too, was indirectly touched upon during today’s hearing.

The court had directed Additional Solicitor General SV Raju to confer with the ED and decide if custody of Mr Singh was warranted at this stage. Mr Singh was released after the ED said it did not want custody.

The court earlier observed Dinesh Arora, an accused who turned approver, or government witness, did not implicate Mr Singh in his initial statements. Mr Singh was arrested on the basis of statements Mr Arora who got bail in August. Sanjay Singh has been in Delhi’s Tihar Jail since his arrest in October on money laundering charges linked to the alleged scam.

His earlier bail pleas – including in the Delhi High Court – were turned down; in February, in fact, the High Court said “no ground” for relief had been made. The ED then had opposed the bail plea, alleging Mr Singh was involved in acquiring, possessing, concealing, dissipating and using proceeds of the crime generated from the alleged liquor scam.

That relief was finally granted this afternoon, after a bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice Dipankar Datta, and Justice Prasanna B Varale said Mr Singh could be released during pendency of the trial. The court said the terms and conditions of the release are to be fixed by the trial court. What is significant, though, is that Mr Singh can participate in political activities, meaning he can campaign for the AAP, which faces a potential shortage of big-name leaders in the run-up to the polls.

He has, however, been cautioned against commenting on the investigation. The court also said the bail could not be treated as precedent in similar cases. The central agency has arrested a handful of leaders in the case, including Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who is currently in Tihar jail, and Bharat Rashtra Samithi’s K Kavitha.  Mr Kejriwal’s former deputy, Manish Sisodia, was arrested in February last year.

“The court asked where the money trail was. A search for that money trail has been on for the last two years. Today, when the court asked, the Enforcement Directorate had no answer,” Atishi told reporters.

Ms Atishi said the SC’s order reflected that the witnesses were prepared against AAP leaders. “People were made approvers by threatening and intimidating them. When people did not say anything against AAP, they were broken and then statements were made against Arvind Kejriwal and other leaders,’ she said. “Today, the whole country came to know that the so-called liquor scam stands on the basis of false witnesses,” she added.

The top court, during the hearing today, observed that Delhi industrialist Dinesh Arora, an accused-turned-approver, had not actually implicated Sanjay Singh in his initial statements. The court’s observation came as senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Mr Singh, declared that Mr Arora’s statements had improved over time. And then, the “10th statement of Dinesh Arora becomes gospel truth. Statement on date of arrest is put by them in unrelied documents. Is this a cat and mouse game?” he said.

Mr Singh was arrested after Dinesh Arora’s later statement that he had handed over ₹ 1 crore to a person linked to the AAP leader. The ED had “pounced” on Mr Singh at a press conference he held, Mr Singhvi said.

While releasing Mr Singh, the court pointed out that the bail was being granted under Section 45 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act — a point that might go in his favour in future. Under the section, a court can release the accused only if it is satisfied that the accused has not committed the offence and that he is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.

Meanwhile, Mr Sisodia, also an accused in the excise policy case, on Tuesday told a court hearing his bail petition that the Central agencies, both the CBI and the ED, have not been able to prove that any money has reached his hands. Senior advocate Mohit Mathur, while appearing on behalf of Sisodia who has been named a “key conspirator” in the case, told Special Judge Kaveri Baweja at the Delhi Rouse Avenue Court that the AAP leader was eligible for bail as, “there is no loss to the government exchequer. There is no loss to any individual. None of us who are consumers have been cheated of anything.”

Sisodia has been languishing in jail for more than a year after he was first arrested by the CBI in February last year and by the ED a month later. In the ED charge-sheet, Manish Sisodia was named a “key conspirator” in the case.

The former deputy CM is accused of extra-procedural interference in framing the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy, tweaking it for the benefit of particular liquor entities and causing loss of several hundred crores to the state exchequer.

Mathur also added that there were reports to show that the government revenue had actually increased following the now scrapped excise policy.

The senior advocate also argued that Sisodia satisfied the triple test for bail which states that bail may be granted if it is established that the accused is not at flight risk, not influence witnesses and not tamper with the evidence. Sisodia was not influential anymore since he was no longer the deputy CM, he added.

“I have been in custody for 13 months…I have never misused the liberties granted to me by the court,” said Mathur on behalf of Sisodia, adding that co-accused (in the ED excise policy case) Benoy Babu also spent 13 months in incarceration and was granted bail by the Supreme Court on grounds of delay.

In July last year, while seeking bail in the ED case, Sisodia informed the Supreme Court that the agency had not traced any proceeds of crime to him. The Supreme Court had also warned the agency the “case will fall flat” after “two questions in the cross-examination.”

The top court, on more than one occasion, told the ED and CBI that they could not keep Sisodia “in jail indefinitely.”

Yet, on October 30, it denied bail to Sisodia. On December 14, the Supreme Court also dismissed his petition to review its bail verdict. The apex court said the one “clear ground” in the PMLA case that was “tentatively supported by material and evidence” was the Rs 338 crore “excess profit” earned by the wholesalers due to changes made in the policy.

Mathur alleged that the ED had then told the SC that the investigation would be completed in six to eight months and that six months had already elapsed after the order of the apex court and investigation was far from over.

“The delay in the trial is not attributable to Sisodia,” said Mathur, adding that investigation qua him was complete, and therefore he was entitled to get bail in the case.




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