Facing allegations of “delay” in disposal of the matter, a Punjab and Haryana high court bench on Wednesday recused from hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the money-laundering case involving a family member of its own judge and a lawyer.
The high court bench of justices SS Saron and Sneh Prashar, while taking up an application in the matter in which the petitioners had expressed “dissatisfaction” over “delay” in disposal of the case, ordered that the matter be put up before the acting chief justice to transfer it to some other bench. Earlier, two division benches had recused from hearing the PIL.
First to recuse was the bench of justices SK Mittal and MS Chauhan on August 21 on the first date of hearing and later, the bench of justices SS Saron and Rekha Mittal recused from hearing the case on September 15 (justice Rekha Mittal opted for recusal).
When the application of withdrawal of PIL was taken up on Wednesday afternoon, the petitioner duo, Jaskaran Grewal and Gurcharan Singh, was not present in the court. The application was filed by the petitioners themselves and not through any counsel.
The PIL was filed on August 21 in which a HC-monitored CBI probe was sought into the scandal. It was alleged that the enforcement directorate (ED) had found financial transactions between a firm of citybased advocate Mukesh Mittal and a family member of sitting HC judge justice Hemant Gupta. Mittal is the brother of assistant solicitor general at the high court, Chetan Mittal, and justice Gupta is a senior judge in the high court.
The PIL was reserved on the issue of “maintainability” by this division bench on October 12. But the judgment is yet to come. In the application for withdrawal of the PIL filed last week, the petitioners had alleged “delay” in disposal of the matter.
The PIL pertains to money laundering investigations being conducted by the enforcement directorate (ED) into an illegal property-transfer case in which Mittal’s name had figured. Later, the ED found alleged instances of money laundering in several property deals the proceeds of which were laundered through shell companies being run by Mittal and his associates. The ED has pegged the scam at `1,000 crore.
According to a report submitted by ED before the high court in March 2015 in another case, it found transactions totaling `22 crore from the bank account of Mittal’s driver Lal Chand, while he was not the actual beneficiary.
The ED had claimed that similar methodology of introduction of “tainted money” had been done through Ajay Singh and Parveen Kumar, who worked as clerks with Mittal; Munish Kumar, Parveen’s brother and other associates, Vineet Goyal and Nishant Goyal. The alleged transaction involving a family member of justice Hemant Gupta and Mukesh Mittal’s firm was reportedly detected during this investigation. But any report in that regard has not come up before the high court and the allegations were made in the PIL only.
The ED has in a reply filed before its adjudicating authority in New Delhi last month stated that the judge’s family member is suspected to be the beneficiary of at least one such property deal and the person’s role is under investigation.
A coordinate bench on Tuesday had dismissed a petition by Ajay Singh and others accused in the case in which the preliminary report registered on March 25, 2013, by the ED was challenged before the high court.
In March 2013, ED started a probe into a property-grabbing case of 2009 in which, as per ED, Mukesh Mittal was the “mastermind”. The ED raided Mittal’s house and those of his associates on January 13 this year and seized incriminating documents relating to properties worth several hundred crores. As many as 108 bank accounts held by Mittal and his associates were frozen by the ED.