The Punjab and Haryana High Court on Friday granted bail to Bhupinder Singh alias Honey, nephew of former Chief Minister of Punjab Charanjit Singh Channi, arrested in connection with allegations of illegal mining and money laundering.
The bench comprising Justice Arvind Singh Sangwan observed,
"There is no absolute bar in granting regular bail to an accused facing trial under the PMLA as the allegations are yet to be proved and the petitioner has raised a probable defence that he has already filed an appeal before the appropriate authority to explain and prove that the recovery effected from him is not the proceed of crime and the final adjudication is yet to be made by the appropriate authority."
Honey was arrested by the ED in February this year under various provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act while linking the proceedings to a FIR registered in 2018 for illegal sand mining in village Malikpur. The agency claimed to have seized approximate ₹10 crore (allegedly proceeds of crime) from him.
While granting bail, the High Court noted that the petitioner qualifies the triple test laid down under Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
The Triple test under Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 lays down three conditions for grant of bail: Firstly, that the public prosecutor should be given an opportunity of hearing; Secondly, that a reasoned order should be passed regarding the guilt of the person and not about the likelihood of commission in case the public prosecutor opposes the application; and Thirdly that the provisions of Cr.P.C. alongwith the provisions of PMLA regarding bail, should apply.
The court went on to draw an analogy between provisions for grant of bail under PMLA and the NDPS Act and observed,
"Section 45 (1) (ii) is akin to Section 37 of the NDPS Act, wherein the Court, while granting bail, has to form an opinion. In a case under the NDPS Act, it is easy for an accused, who has been released on bail to repeat such offence, however, in a case under the PMLA like the present case, it is not easy for an accused to commit the offence again as he will always be in radar of E.D."
Court further added that it is well settled principle of law that after the completion of the investigation and filing of the charge sheet if it is seen that the conclusion of trial is likely to take a long time, a person/accused can be released on bail.
Considering the medical condition of the petitioner and the fact that he is in custody for 5 months, the court concluded that he cannot be kept in judicial custody for unlimited period as has been held in P. Chidambaram's case.
Accordingly, the present petition was allowed.
Case Title: Bhupinder Singh @ Honey Versus Enforcement of Directorate
Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (PH) 166