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Satyendar Jain's Counsel To Not Remain Present During Interrogation By ED: Delhi High Court Stays Trial Court Direction

Nupur Thapliyal
4 Jun 2022 9:15 AM GMT
Satyendar Jains Counsel To Not Remain Present During Interrogation By ED: Delhi High Court Stays Trial Court Direction

The Delhi High Court has stayed the Trial Court direction permitting Health Minister Satyendar Jain's counsel to remain present during his interrogation in connection with a money laundering case.

The condition was imposed by the trial Court while remanding Jain to the agency's custody till June 9.

A single bench comprising of Justice Yogesh Khanna disposed of the interim application filed by the Enforcement Directorate while observing thus:

"….this Court can always permit at visible, but not an audible range during the course of recording of the statement but since there is no apprehension raised in the present matter, hence as a matter of right such direction ought not to have been given in the recording of statement."

The issue before the Court was if Jain had a right of presence of his lawyer during recording of his statements under sec. 50 of PMLA, at a safe distance from him from where the lawyer can see the accused and not hear him.

While referring to the relevant judgments on the subject, the Court was of the view that since there was neither any FIR nor a complaint against Jain, thus he cannot as a matter of right claim to have the presence of his lawyers during the course of recording of his statement per the decisions in Ramesh Chander Metra and Anant Brahmchari cases.

"Even otherwise, admittedly, his entire recording of statement is videographed and audiographed which certainly would dispel the apprehension of any coercion, threat to the respondent. Even otherwise, in Sandeep Jain (supra) the Division Bench of this Court held the apprehension of coercive measures being employed need to be real and like so that the principle of presence of an advocate, at visible, but not audible distance be applied," the Court added.

The matter is now listed on August 24.

While the Court had reserved the order yesterday, ASG SV Raju representing ED had argued that the impugned condition was contrary to the 1992 Supreme Court judgment in case titled Poolpandi v. Superintendent, Central Excise and several other judgments passed by Courts from time to time.

Raju argued that although Jain is arrested, he is not an accused and therefore, is not entitled to other rights which are available to accused persons.

Raju added that since audio video recording of the interrogation was being done, no prejudice was being caused to Jain in any manner.

Furthermore, Raju submitted that there was no allegation that Jain was being threatened or pressurised in the interrogation process and that his medical checkup was also being done twice a day.

On the other hand, Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Jain called the case as extraordinary while submitting that the prosecution knew that the law was "100 percent against them."

Singhvi argued that the Poolpandi judgment, being the bedrock of ED's argument, had a simple distinction that in the said case, it was only decided that a lawyer cannot accompany an accused or cannot be sitting with the accused during interrogation.

Singhvi refuted the argument of the ED wherein they had submitted that Jain was not an accused.

"They have repeatedly called me an accused. In writing, apart from whatever he says orally, they have called me respondent accused. The pleadings say x, their oral arguments are opposite," he argued.

Singhvi also argued that the remand application, which is the core of the issue, also referred to Jain as an accused.

The ED had challenged the condition imposed by the Special Judge in the last paragraph of the remand order stating that during the time of interrogation, one Advocate shall be allowed to remain present at a safe distance where from he can see Jain but not hear him.

Jain was arrested on May 30 by the agency. The Enforcement Directorate had then sought 14 days custody of Jain from the Trial Court in the matter. Special CBI Judge Geetanjali Goel had then remanded Jain to ED's custody till June 9.

The agency had last month attached properties worth Rs. 4.81 crore belonging to five companies and others in connection with an alleged disproportionate assets case against Jain and others.

These assets reportedly were in the name of Akinchan Developers, Indo Metalimpex, Paryas Infosolutions, Mangalayatan Projects and J.J. Ideal Estate etc.

The money laundering case is based upon an FIR registered by the CBI against the minister and other individuals in the year 2017, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, wherein it was alleged that during the period of February 2015 to May 2017, the minister had acquired assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The CBI had then filed a chargesheet in December 2018 against Jain.

In an earlier statement, the ED had reportedly said thus:

"During the period 2015-16, when Satyendar Kumar Jain was a public servant, the above mentioned companies beneficially owned and controlled by him received accommodation entries to the tune of Rs.4.81 crore from shell companies against cash transferred to Kolkata-based entry operators through 'hawala' route."

ASG S.V.Raju, ASG along with Zoheb Hossain appeared for ED. Senior Advocates Abhishek Manu Singhvi, N.Hariharan along with Advocates Shadan Farast and Bhavook Chauhan appeared for Jain.

Case Title: ED v. Satyendar Jain

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