SC grants bail to AAP’s Sanjay Singh; ED raises no objection | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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SC grants bail to AAP’s Sanjay Singh; ED raises no objection

By, New Delhi
Apr 03, 2024 05:50 AM IST

AAP MP Sanjay Singh was released on bail by the Supreme Court after ED didn't oppose his plea in the Delhi excise policy case.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday released Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) parliamentarian Sanjay Singh on bail after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) decided not to oppose his plea in connection with the Delhi excise policy case — a development that could have some impact on the continued incarceration in the same case of former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, who has been in jail since February 2023, and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, who was arrested by ED on March 21 this year.

ED arrested Rajya Sabha MP Singh on October 4 last year. (PTI)
ED arrested Rajya Sabha MP Singh on October 4 last year. (PTI)

The concession from ED came an hour after the 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.

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A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna, Dipankar Datta and PB Varale ordered Singh’s release subject to the terms and conditions to be set down by the trial court concerned. Singh, represented through senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi, volunteered that he would not make any political statement or other comments about his role in the excise case.

“In view of the statement made by ED, we direct Sanjay Singh will be released on bail on terms and conditions to be imposed by the trial court. We clarify the concession given today will not be treated as a precedent,” said the bench in the order, recording the statement of additional solicitor general (ASG) SV Raju, who appeared for the agency.

To be sure, in criminal cases, each accused is treated on the merit of the evidence against them.

The order noted that ED’s concession in the case was made before the agency began arguments. “We clarify that we have not commented on the merits of the case,” it added.

Still, the release will be a boost for the AAP, which has been bereft of senior leadership since Kejriwal’s arrest. Singh is one of the tallest leaders of the party, is an aggressive public orator, and has relationships across parties.

The court, earlier in the proceedings, also hinted to the agency that if it decided in favour of Singh, it will have to record its observations under Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act that he was prima facie not guilty and that will have ramifications on the trial. The Supreme Court is also set to review its 2022 judgment in Vijay Madanlal Choudhary v Union of India, which upheld the constitutional validity of several stringent provisions of PMLA, including those related to power to issue summons, make arrests, search and seizure and the stringent conditions of bail.

The Supreme Court in August 2022 agreed to review its earlier judgment, adding the reconsideration would be confined to two crucial aspects — denies the accused access to a copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) and shifts the onus of proving innocence from the prosecution to the accused.

In March 2023, the top court agreed to examine the validity of Sections 50 and 63 of the PMLA and sought the government’s reply. Section 50 empowers ED to summon an accused and record a statement that is admissible as evidence. Section 63 provides for punishment for giving false testimony.

These cases are now expected to be heard by a special three-judge bench in July.

Arrested six months ago

ED arrested Rajya Sabha MP Singh on October 4 last year in relation to the controversial 2021-22 excise policy, which has since been withdrawn. His arrest was based on a statement made by Dinesh Arora, who claimed to have delivered a sum of 2 crore to Sarvesh Mishra, an alleged associate of the MP. These funds were delivered at Singh’s official residence, Arora said in his statement recorded by the trial court, and the receipt of this was confirmed by Singh when they next met. Arora turned an approver in the case, seeking pardon.

ED had filed supplementary complaints against Singh and other co-accused on December 2 and December 19 following which the trial court rejected grant of regular bail to Singh on December 22.

Singh’s petition in the top court challenged the February 7 order of the Delhi high court, rejecting his bail plea by relying on the statement of Arora. In the petition, Singh questioned the veracity of the claim made by approver Arora suggesting that he had given six different statements during investigation and was unreliable.

On Tuesday, Singhvi cited the discrepancies in Arora’s statements, adding there was neither any corroboration of the payment of 2 crore nor the recovery of this money. The senior counsel questioned the necessity of Singh’s arrest based on a belated statement by Arora to implicate him sans any corroborative piece of evidence.

Finding substance in Singhvi’s submissions, the bench turned to ASG Raju, questioning the agency on the necessity of continuing the incarceration of the AAP leader, who has already spent six months behind bars.

“He has been in for six months. Do you have any instructions whether you require him anymore? Please, keep in mind if we are with him, we will have to record under Section 45 (of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act) our satisfaction that he is prima facie not guilty and that will have its own ramifications on the trial,” the bench told the ASG before the bench was to rise for a lunch break at 1pm.

It said that the fact of the matter is that Arora did not implicate Singh in his initial statements, adding statements of an accomplice will have to be finally tested during the trial by way of cross-examination of witnesses.

“There has been no recovery either and that’s another fact of the matter...You have kept him in custody for six months. Take instructions whether he has to be kept in further custody,” it told Raju.

When the hearing resumed at 2pm, the ASG said that although the agency has an arguable case, it will not come in the way of the grant of bail to Singh. Raju, however, said that he is not willing to make any concession in so far as Singh’s challenge to the legality of his arrest is concerned.

Responding, the bench said that ED’s willingness to let him out on bail is good enough for now. “It does not matter if you are not conceding on the matter of arrest. To him, it’s a matter of liberty and agreeing on bail is good enough,” it remarked. The court then proceeded to order Singh’s release on bail.

Sanjay Singh, arrested six months ago in connection with the controversial Delhi excise policy case, has been under scrutiny for his alleged involvement in the scandal that has embroiled several high-profile names, including Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and former deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia— both presently incarcerated in the Capital’s Tihar jail in the same case. Another AAP lawmaker Satyendar Jain is also lodged in Tihar jail over charges of money laundering in a different case.

The case, which pertains to accusations of corruption, money laundering, and irregularities in the formulation and implementation of the excise policy, has seen the ED taking a stringent stance against the accused.

Kejriwal was arrested on March 21 by ED, hours after the Delhi high court denied his request for interim protection from arrest — a startling turn of events that left the Capital’s politics in turmoil and pushed to new heights the ongoing conflict between the Union government and the AAP. The party has insisted that Kejriwal will continue as CM and he has issued two orders from jail, sparking condemnation from the BJP.

ED has accused the CM of being the “kingpin and key conspirator” of the Delhi excise policy scam who acted in cahoots with ministers of his cabinet and other Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders, while seeking to implicate AAP as the beneficiary of the alleged crime in the form of a “company”.

Kejriwal was on Monday sent to Tihar jail following his 10-day custodial interrogation, during which, the agency claimed, the probe focussed on the role of Vijay Nair, a key figure in the case who allegedly played a significant role in facilitating allegedly illicit activities and connections within the liquor industry.

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