25 Sep 2023 2:20 PM GMT
In a recent legal development, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, while hearing an appeal filed by suspended Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Pooja Singhal assailing the Jharkhand High Court’s order wherein she was denied bail, directed the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to inform the Bench about the real material witnesses who need to be examined in the matter. It may...
In a recent legal development, a Division Bench of the Supreme Court, while hearing an appeal filed by suspended Indian Administrative Services (IAS) officer Pooja Singhal assailing the Jharkhand High Court’s order wherein she was denied bail, directed the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) to inform the Bench about the real material witnesses who need to be examined in the matter.
It may be noted that Singhal was arrested last year pertaining to a money laundering case registered against her in connection with the alleged embezzlement of MGNREGA funds in Khunti district during 2009-2010 and some other suspicious financial transactions.
It is also worth mentioning that recently, in February, Singhal was granted bail by a Bench headed by Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul for the purposes of attending to her daughter for a period of two months. Thereafter, she surrendered and have been in custody since April.
The present appeal was being heard by the Bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia.
In today’s hearing, one of the issues flagged by Senior Advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for Singhal, was that, during her custody, she was admitted to the hospital and some newspaper published her photos of being in the hospital. Further, Luthra submitted that ED has been using the same to oppose Singhal’s bail.
Counsel, appearing for ED, informed that these pictures have been accessed through CCTV footages.
Luthra refuted the same and submitted “Nobody can walk in and ask for CCTV footages in the hospital. What has happened to privacy?”
At this, Justice Dhulia inquired “How does this help you or them?”
Luthra replied, "They are using this to say I am a person with influence, I am allowed to walk in and have access to my family".
Counsel, appearing for ED, averred that petitioner was walking around freely without no guards, people are visiting at odd hours. However, Justice Kaul pointed out that the jail authorities only took petitioner (Singhal) there.
Moving forward, Luthra raised concern that only 4 out of 43 witnesses have been examined. Justice Dhulia replied “Charges against you are also serious.”
Justice Kaul: How many are material witnesses before which you can say that we substantially have examined our case?
Pursuant to this, the Court noted that the petitioner/ Pooja Singhal has filed some documents regarding her medical condition and respondent needs a week’s time to examine the same. Thus, the court while granting a weeks’ time also directed the respondent to inform as to who are real material witnesses who need to be examined and listed the matter on 31th October.
The case of the ED is that Singhal used to receive a 5% “illegal commission” in development projects in Khunti from funds she disbursed for the works under MGNREGA. .
Case Title: Pooja Singhal v. Directorate of Enforcement, SLP(Crl) No. 11971/2022