25 Sep 2023 10:00 AM GMT
The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned until October 9 the hearing of the bail plea of Aam Aadmi Party leader and former Delhi government cabinet minister Satyendar Jain in a money laundering case. Jain was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in May 2022 and was granted interim bail due to medical reasons earlier this year. The court today clarified that this interim relief will continue...
The Supreme Court on Monday adjourned until October 9 the hearing of the bail plea of Aam Aadmi Party leader and former Delhi government cabinet minister Satyendar Jain in a money laundering case. Jain was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in May 2022 and was granted interim bail due to medical reasons earlier this year. The court today clarified that this interim relief will continue until the next date of the hearing. Also addressing the concern of the State that the AAP leader has allegedly been using delay tactics to push back his trial, the apex court directed him to 'diligently' participate in the ongoing proceedings before the trial court.
A bench comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Bela M Trivedi was hearing Jain’s plea challenging the decision of the Delhi High Court to deny him bail in April.
Last month, the court extended Jain’s interim bail for the second time after Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the embattled legislator, stated that he was undergoing rehabilitation following a complex spinal operation. Despite opposition from Additional Solicitor-General SV Raju, who advocated for an independent examination by AIIMS and a cancellation of interim bail, the bench agreed to defer Jain’s surrender until September 1. The court also listed his main bail application to be heard on the same day. On September 1, the hearing was adjourned after Justice Prashant Kumar Mishra recused himself from hearing Jain’s bail plea. Once again, on September 12, the hearing was postponed after ASG Raju requested an adjournment, a suggestion to which Singhvi readily agreed.
During today's hearing, an adjournment was sought on behalf of Singhvi. Although the additional solicitor-general did not object to this, he flagged alleged delay tactics being used by Jain to push back the trial court hearing. While requesting the court to enjoin him from seeking further adjournments in the special court trying him for offences under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, ASG Raju told the bench, "As many as 16 dates have been taken in trial court just to get documents under Section 207 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. They are taking adjournments and not proceeding with trial. They are also filing application after application which are frivolous."
"That is not true at all," Jain's lawyer countered, alleging that only three adjournments had been sought by Jain, while all other times the hearing was rescheduled was owing to other reasons not within their control. Despite their protestations, the bench agreed to direct Jain to participate 'diligently' in the proceedings before the trial court.
The counsel protested again, saying, "We have been participating diligently."
"Then why are you worried? Even if we say this, there will be no issue," Justice Bopanna pointed out. The judge also stopped the counsel from attempting to explain the reasons for seeking an adjournment in the trial court, saying, "Don't try to justify. If you have not taken dates, it's alright; if you have, from today, be diligent. That's all we are saying. We are not going to inquire into whether you have taken time earlier or not...The best thing for you is to say 'yes' to this."
Yes, the counsel prompty agreed. While directing the hearing to be adjourned until October 9, the bench clarified in its order -
"It is made clear pendency of proceedings before this court or any reason shall not be used as an excuse or ruse to defer proceedings before trial court, but would diligently take part in proceedings before the trial court and permit the case to progress."
At this juncture, Jain's lawyer voiced concerns that he may be barred from accessing the legal remedies available to him, as a result of the Supreme Court's observation. Justice Bopanna, however, assured him that the trial judge will apply their mind before deciding on whether an application is frivolous, saying,"What we have said is that you will not use it as an excuse or ruse. If you have a real reason, the judge will look into it."
In 2017, the Central Bureau of Investigation accused Jain and others of laundering money to the tune of Rs 11.78 crore during 2010-2012 and Rs 4.63 crores during 2015-16, when he had become a minister in the Delhi government. It was alleged that the money laundering exercise was carried out through three companies – Paryas Infosolution, Indo Metalimpex, Akinchan Developers, and Mangalayatan Projects.
Jain allegedly had given money to some Kolkata-based entry operators of different shell companies for accommodation entries, through his associates. The entry operators had then allegedly re-routed the money in the form of investment through shares in Jain-linked companies after ‘layering them through shell companies’.
The case lodged by the Directorate of Enforcement is based on the CBI complaint and alleges that Jain signed conveyance deeds for the purchase of agricultural lands by Prayas Infosolutions in 2011 and 2012. The central agency has further alleged that the land was later transferred to family members of Jain's associates who denied knowledge about the transfers.
Last year, the ED year attached properties worth Rs. 4.81 crores belonging to five companies and others in the money laundering 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 Aam Aadmi Party leader was taken in custody in connection with the money laundering case on May 30, 2022.
In November of last year, the bail application of the former cabinet minister was dismissed by a trial court, which said that it had prima facie come on record that Jain was ‘actually involved’ in concealing the proceeds of crime by giving cash to the Kolkata-based entry operators and thereafter, bringing the cash into three companies against the sale of shares to show that income of these three companies was untainted.
Subsequently, his bail was denied by the Delhi High Court as well in April, on the ground that he was an influential person and had the potential of tampering with evidence. As such, the twin conditions under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 were held to not be satisfied. Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma also denied bail to co-accused Vaibhav Jain and Ankush Jain.
In May, a vacation bench headed by Justice JK Maheshwari granted interim bail to the Aam Aadmi Party leader on medical grounds, which was extended by the court in July.
Satyendar Kumar Jain v. Directorate of Enforcement | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 6561 of 2023