Supreme Court Allows Manish Sisodia To Revive Bail Plea After Final Chargesheet/Complaint Is Filed By ED/CBI In Four Weeks

Debby Jain & Gyanvi Khanna

4 Jun 2024 9:39 AM GMT

  • Supreme Court Allows Manish Sisodia To Revive Bail Plea After Final Chargesheet/Complaint Is Filed By ED/CBI In Four Weeks

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday (June 04) disposed of the bail plea of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia regarding the money laundering and corruption cases connected to the liquor policy case. This was after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Court that the final chargesheet in the matter would be filed in three weeks. However, the Court granted time till July 03,...

    The Supreme Court on Tuesday (June 04) disposed of the bail plea of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia regarding the money laundering and corruption cases connected to the liquor policy case. This was after Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the Court that the final chargesheet in the matter would be filed in three weeks. However, the Court granted time till July 03, 2024 for filing of the chargesheet. At the same time, it gave Sisodia liberty to raise his plea after filing of the chargesheet.

    The vacation Bench of Justices Aravind Kumar and Sandeep Mehta was hearing a Special Leave Petition against the Delhi High Court order dated May 21, rejecting the second bail plea moved by Sisodia. Both Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) had registered cases against the Aam Aadmi Party leader.

    Senior Advocate Dr Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted at the outset that Sisodia has been in custody for the last fifteen months. The Apex Court, while dismissing his bail plea, had last year said that he could file a fresh bail plea before the trial court if the trial proceeds at a snail's pace.

    "29In view of the assurance given at the Bar on behalf of the prosecution that they shall conclude the trial by taking appropriate steps within next six to eight months, we give liberty to the appellant – Manish Sisodia to move a fresh application for bail in case of change in circumstances, or in case the trial is protracted and proceeds at a snail's pace in next three months."

    In this context, Singhvi apprised that the investigation is ongoing and the sixth and seventh supplementary chargesheets were filed two weeks ago. Further, he argued that the ED had cited 162 witnesses and filed over 5000 pages. Apart from this, CBI cited 294 witnesses and filed documents of 31000 pages.

    Countering the prosecution's stance that the delay is by Sisodia, Singhvi assertively said that most of the applications filed by him, regarding supply of documents, were allowed. Besides, these applications were filed as per the statutory rights available to him.

    When the Court asked if a joint trial is taking place in the matter, Singhvi replied in the negative. He also said that it is the ED and CBI who are delaying the trial and have concealed the documents exculpating Sisodia.

    He went on to submit that though the CBI submitted the chargesheet a year ago, it failed to file the underlying documents. Citing the Trial Court judgment and the impugned judgment of the High Court, Singhvi said that bail was rejected on the basis that there was no delay in “pre-trial proceedings”. He averred that this was ultra vires of the Supreme Court's judgment.

    Singhvi vehemently argued that the Trial Court and the High Court could not have gone behind the Supreme Court's judgment, but they did. A second ground of challenge was that the High Court dismissed the bail, opining on merits, which it ought not to have done. Arguing that there was a grave delay in the trial and the matter required consideration, the senior counsel requested the Court to issue notice. 

    However, the Court was not inclined to issue notice without listening to ED's objections. Therefore, Justice Kumar asked SG Tushar Mehta (appearing for respondent-authorities) the following questions:

    "Two things, without going into the merits, you will have to refer to para 29 of this Court's order. Secondly, undisputedly, prima facie, the submissions made by Dr Singhvi show that there is no delay attributable to the petitioner. So, in those circumstances, the succor given by this court in paragraph 29, would it not inure to the benefit of the petitioner?Thirdly, when will the trial commence and who are the primary witnesses?"

    Responding to the Court queries, Mehta submitted that as per Para 29 (mentioned above for ready reference), any application filed for bail was to be considered by the trial court on merits without being influenced by the Supreme Court's order. On protraction of trial, he said that the "CM and the convener of the party" (referring to Arvind Kejriwal) did not appear for six months.

    Further, the SG urged that Sisodia raised the issue of non-supply of documents at belated stage. He argued that documents were supplied but Sisodia asked to supply the same again. To support this, he referred to applications filed for the supply of documents that were dismissed by the Trial Court on the same ground.  

    "You are not permitting even the charge to frame under Section 207 of the CrPC...The finding is that we tried our best to comply with all the court orders. Since the accused persons wanted digital copies , then hard copies, then legible copies, then a list of unrelied documents, then inspection of all documents and voluminous records, more supplementary prosecution complaints have also been filed now..." Mehta said. 

    At this stage, the Court enquired that if trial court is able to frame the charges in a time-bound manner, how long it would take for the prosecution to examine the witnesses. On this, Mehta said that the court could direct day-to-day trial. He apprised the Court about an application filed by the agencies before the Trial Court, seeking a day-to-day trial.  However, Singhvi averred that these were all tactics to have the present bail plea dismissed. 

    Singhvi also claimed that the Supreme Court's 2023 judgment in Sisodia's case, penned by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, envisaged that his incarceration not be prolonged. He said that he Sisodia was merely asking for the bail application to be heard at this stage. The senior counsel reiterated that the delay in trial could not be attributed to Sisodia. The Court cannot deny the valuable right to avail legal remedy, he added.

    Subsequently, the Court asked SG Mehta whether the investigation was complete qua all accused and if no supplementary chargesheet remained to be filed. In the post-lunch session, after taking instructions, Mehta said that the final chargesheet would be filed within three weeks. 

    "We will file the final chargesheet in 2 weeks (later altered to 3 weeks)...that is called the PMLA," the SG said.

    At this stage, Singhvi said that if the Court was not considering issuing notice, then it may consider placing the matter before appropriate Bench in July. However, the bench chose to dispose of the matter recording the undertaking given by the SG. It granted Sisodia liberty to revive his prayers for bail after the final complaint/chargesheet is filed.

    Details of the impugned order 

    While denying bail, the Single Judge Bench of Delhi High Court noted that Sisodia's case depicted a grave misuse of power and breach of trust. It observed that the material collected in the matter showed that Sisodia subverted the process of making the excise policy by fabricating public feedback to suit his goal.

    In this Court's opinion, this deceptive act was a calculated move to create an illusion that the Excise policy was formed after careful consideration of feedback received from the public. But in reality, the feedback was manufactured to justify the applicant's predetermined decision to formulate the Excise policy, in defiance of the Expert Committee Report, to enrich a few individuals, in exchange for kickbacks,” the Court said.

    Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma also observed that Sisodia did not pass the triple test for bail in the CBI case, as it was admitted that he had failed to produce two phones he used and claimed that they were damaged. The court added that the possibility of tampering with evidence by Sisodia could not be ruled out. Bolstering its view, the Court also said that Sisodia was a powerful person, had responsibility for 18 ministries, and was influential.

    These senior officers, some of whom have given statements against him can be influenced in case he is released on bail. The applicant is also a senior leader of Aam Aadmi Party. Thus, he is an influential person within the power corridors of Delhi Government,” the Court recorded in this context.

    In respect of the PMLA case, the court said that the prosecution was able to make out a prima facie case of money laundering against Sisodia. However, Sisodia would be permitted to meet his wife every week and the trial court order allowing him to do so will continue.

    Brief background of earlier legal proceedings and allegations

    Sisodia approached court challenging the trial court orders dismissing his second bail pleas in both CBI and ED cases on April 30.

    While denying him bail in the money laundering case, the trial court rejected Sisodia's plea that the proceedings in the case have been delayed or that the case is proceeding at a snail's pace. It was also observed that the so­-called delay was clearly on account of reasons attributable to the AAP leader himself.

    Sisodia was denied bail by the trial court, Delhi High Court and the Supreme Court in both ED and CBI cases. The Supreme Court also dismissed Sisodia's review petitions against the denial of bail. His curative petitions have also been dismissed.

    Sisodia was first arrested by CBI and ED on February 26 and March 9 last year respectively. In the FIR registered by the CBI, Sisodia and others have been accused of being instrumental in 'recommending' and 'taking decisions' regarding the 2021-22 excise policy, “without the approval of competent authority with an intention to extend undue favours to the licensee post tender”.

    The central agency has also claimed that the AAP leader was arrested because he gave evasive replies and refused to cooperate with the investigation, despite being confronted with evidence.

    On the other hand, the Enforcement Directorate has alleged that the excise policy was implemented as part of a conspiracy to give wholesale business profit of 12 percent to certain private companies, although such a stipulation was not mentioned in the minutes of meetings of Group of Ministers (GoM).

    The agency has claimed that there was a conspiracy coordinated by Vijay Nair and other individuals along with South Group to give extraordinary profit margins to wholesalers. Nair was acting on behalf of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, according to the agency.

    Sisodia's bail applications in both cases were rejected by Special Judge MK Nagpal (now transferred) on March 31 and April 28 last year. The Delhi High Court then denied bail to Sisodia in both cases, after which he approached the Supreme Court to challenge both verdicts.

    Case Title: MANISH SISODIA Versus DIRECTORATE OF ENFORCEMENT., SLP(Crl) No. 7795/2024 (and connected matter)

    Click here to read the order

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