Transferring the proceedings in a money laundering case against Aam Aadmi Party leader Satyendar Jain to another judge, a Delhi Court today observed that although the special judge, who was hearing the matter, is an upright officer, the overall "circumstances" are sufficient to raise a reasonable apprehension of probable bias in the mind of the Enforcement Directorate.
Allowing the central agency's application for transfer the proceedings from the court of Special Judge Geetanjali Goel, the Principal District & Sessions Judge Vinay Kumar Gupta assigned the case to Special Judge Vikas Dhull.
"In my considered opinion, the Ld. Judge is a very upright officer, however, all the circumstances taken together are sufficient to raise a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner as a common man, not of any actual bias but of a probable bias and as such the application is liable to be ...," the court said.
The Court also concluded that it cannot be said that ED is showing any "hypersensitivity" to the issue by seeking a transfer of the case.
"As alleged in the application that the Ld. Judge has expressed her agreement with the submissions of the Ld. Counsel for the respondent (Jain) regarding not controverting his submission by the petitioner (ED) though stated to have been controverted during oral submissions, has triggered the apprehension in the mind of the petitioner and all other things for which no specific objection of any kind of bias has been raised, have again stand revived," the Court said.
It also observed that there is no quarrel with the position that the power to transfer a case is not to be exercised in a routine manner but only in exceptional circumstances, while applying the test of 'apprehension in the mind of a common man'.
The seniormost district judge also said there is no quarrel with the preposition that justice should not only be done but should also be seen to have been done.
"The judicial process demands that a judge moves within the framework of relevant legal rules. And the question is not whether the judge is actually biased but whether the circumstances are such as to create a reasonable apprehension in the mind of others that there is likelihood of bias affecting the decision," the Court added.
Hours after the order was passed, Jain's counsel today made an urgent mentioning before the High Court against the same, which has been allowed for hearing on Monday.
Proceedings before Court Yesterday
Appearing for the agency, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju yesterday told the Court that having served as Minister of Health and Jails in the city, Jain could influence the doctors and jail authorities and manage to get forged documents while seeking interim bail on grounds ill health.
Raju had argued that Jain faked his illness and got himself admitted in a Delhi government-run hospital.
Therefore, Raju said that the agency has an apprehension of bias against the Special Judge in deciding the matter, on the ground that despite bringing on record various documents to show that Jain was an influencing personality and documents may be forged in his favour, the Judge refused to consider the same.
Raju also submitted that even a common man would know that if a minister heading a hospital is admitted in the same institution, there will be an element of bias as to how he will be examined there.
On the othet hand, Senior Advocate Kapil Sibal appearing for Jain took the Court through the facts of the case by submitting that the issue arose after Jain moved a regular bail application before the Special Judge on August 17.
Calling the agency's application as a mala fide plea, Sibal said that no apprehension was put forth by ED before September 15 when the matter was being heard in its final stages.
Sibal also said that as per an official notification, Jain was not holding the ministerial position of any department anymore. He also said that merely because the hospital where Jain was admitted was under the adminstrative control of Delhi goverment is no ground to allege bias.
After an ED's plea seeking transfer of the case from a Special Court, the Principal District & Sessions Judge on September 19 had stayed the proceedings in the matter and posted the application for hearing on September 30. However, after an urgent mentioning before the Supreme Court on Wednesday, the Principal District & Sessions Judge was directed to take up, hear and dispose of the plea by September 22 itself.
ED had 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 Metal Impex, 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.
Presently, Jain is in judicial custody in the said money laundering case.