Delhi high court denies bail to AAP leader Manish Sisodia in excise policy case | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times

Delhi high court denies bail to AAP leader Manish Sisodia in excise policy case

May 21, 2024 09:16 PM IST

The denial of bail to Manish Sisodia days after ED’s inclusion of AAP as an accused in the supplementary charge sheet further marks a significant escalation in the case

The Delhi high court on Tuesday denied bail to Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia in all the cases pertaining to the alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy 2021-22.

Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia. (File)
Aam Aadmi Party leader Manish Sisodia. (File)

In the order, a bench of justice Swarana Kanta Sharma castigated the AAP leader for framing the policy to enrich private persons saying that rather than genuinely seeking public comment, Sisodia “orchestrated a scheme were pre-drafted emails” were sent “under the guise of public comment by various people under Sisodia’s direction. “Corruption in this case originated from the applicant’s desire to frame the policy. The dissemination of false information by portraying it as a form of feedback constitutes corruption,” the court said

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The denial of bail to Sisodia days after the Enforcement Directorate (ED)’s inclusion of AAP as an accused in the supplementary charge sheet further marks a significant escalation in the case, which pertains to accusations of corruption, money laundering, and irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the excise policy.

The court also shot down Sisodia’s contention of attributing the delay on the part of the trial to the ED, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and probe agencies. “This court is of the view that there has been no delay on the part of the prosecution to supply the documents and on the part of the trial court regarding argument on charge. It is not the fault of ED, CBI and the trial court that there was voluminous record of investigation,” the judge noted.

In the judgment, justice Sharma also rejected the AAP leader’s contention that the court could not consider the application on merits. Calling the contention “meritless” the court said that the Supreme Court had not curtailed the right of the lower courts to also consider Sisodia’s bail application on merits.

The court was of the view that Sisodia was involved in the crucial destruction of electronic evidence and has not been able to make out the case. “The possibility of Sisodia influencing material witnesses cannot be ruled out,” justice Sharma said.

Sisodia had approached the Delhi high court two days after the city court had denied him bail for the second time. While rejecting Sisodia’s bail applications, special judge Kaveri Baweja had ruled that Sisodia individually and along with other accused, contributed to the “delay” in court proceedings related to alleged irregularities in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy.

In both the verdicts, Baweja, had also rejected Sisodia’s reasoning that he was entitled to seek bail by the top court’s October 30, 2023 order “in case the trial is protracted and proceeds at a snail’s pace in the next three months,” and had remarked that the consistent advancement of the case, despite attempts to impede it, did not warrant the label of a “snail’s pace”.

Arrested by the CBI on February 26, 2023 and thereafter by the ED on March 9, 2023, Sisodia’s plea before the high court painted a picture that the city court’s order amounted to putting a death knell on the fundamental right of “fair trial” and “life and liberty” and suggested that the expectations of a fair trial and transparency by an accused would be discouraged. The petition underscored that Sisodia is a victim of political witch hunt and has been arrested by the probe agencies with an ulterior motive of maligning his reputation. In his petition, Sisodia had claimed that the CBI continued further investigation and arrested the accused persons despite filing multiple chargesheets. While ED, Sisodia’s plea claimed, filed additional documents on December 6, 2023 to the “already filed complaints” with the delay of more than a year.

Sisodia’s legal team, led by senior advocates Dayan Krishnan and Mohit Mathur, contended that despite assurances from investigating agencies to conclude the trial within six to eight months, there has been no significant progress. They argued that Sisodia has been incarcerated for over 14 months, while other co-accused, including high-profile figures like AAP member of Parliament (MP) Sanjay Singh and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal have been granted bail.

The ED and CBI countered these claims by emphasising the serious nature of charges and the potential for Sisodia to tamper with witnesses, if released. Hussain noted the numerous pleas filed by various accused, contributing to trial delays, and maintained that Sisodia played a key role in the alleged scam.

CBI arrested Sisodia on February 26, 2023, stating that it had recovered several incriminating pieces of evidence in the case, and to conduct a fair investigation, his custody was required. The AAP leader was later sent to Tihar Jail by Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court, from where he was arrested by the ED, which is carrying out a separate probe into the policy in connection with alleged money laundering, on March 9, 2023.

Sisodia was accused of making changes in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy of 2021 to benefit a group of liquor dealers from the south, referred to as the South Group, causing wrongful loss to the exchequer by increasing profit margin under the new regime.

The CBI has already filed chargesheets in connection with the crime registered under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act against the senior AAP leader while the ED claimed that 100 crore kickback was paid by the beneficiary companies, and Sisodia helped them generate proceeds of crime by raising the profit margin from the existing 5% to 12% under the new policy.

The Supreme Court in March had dismissed the curative petition filed by Sisodia challenging the October 30, 2023 order refusing him bail in the CBI and ED case.

The Delhi excise policy case has embroiled several high-profile names, including Kejriwal and BRS legislator Kavitha, who is presently incarcerated in Capital’s Tihar jail.

The Supreme Court on May 10 granted Kejriwal a 21-day interim bail for political campaigning in the ongoing general elections.

AAP MP Sanjay Singh’s release on bail in April came after the top court asked the agency why Singh should be kept behind bars after serving six months in jail, considering that “there doesn’t appear to be any concrete evidence against him, and no money has been recovered linking him to the alleged money laundering offence”.

Another AAP lawmaker Satyendar Jain is also lodged in Tihar jail over charges of money laundering, albeit in a different case.

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