SC Questions if Privacy Breach Can be Justified ground of Bail for Suspended IAS Officer Pooja Singhal

Supreme Court Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: 26 September 2023 at 15:46 IST

The Supreme Court has posed a critical question to suspended IAS officer Pooja Singhal, who is facing charges in a money laundering case: Can an allegation of a breach of privacy be a valid ground for granting bail?

Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, representing Singhal, brought this issue to the attention of the court, highlighting that Singhal’s privacy was violated when photographs of her hospital room were leaked to the media while she was receiving treatment in Ranchi.

Advocate Luthra argued that Singhal has been in judicial custody for over 200 days and emphasized the breach of her privacy as a significant concern. He presented documents and pictures that were allegedly leaked to the media and stated that Singhal is currently in custody as part of an Enforcement Directorate case, and only the anti-money laundering agency can explain how the pictures were leaked.

However, Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul remarked that the allegations against Singhal are very serious, making it a challenging juncture for the court to consider granting her bail.

Justice Sudhanshu Dhulia questioned whether the privacy breach alone entitled Singhal to bail, to which Luthra responded that there were other grounds for seeking bail, and he was bringing the recent privacy breach incident to the court’s attention.

Advocate Zoheb Hossain, representing the Enforcement Directorate, contended that there was no breach of privacy and explained that the pictures in question were derived from CCTV footage, showing Singhal moving around in the hospital corridor. He asserted that Singhal had sufficient influence to meet family members at unconventional visiting hours and wander freely in the corridor.

The bench then inquired about the progress of witness examinations, to which Hossain revealed that four witnesses had been examined, while the examination of 19 witnesses was pending, with a total of 33 witnesses expected in the case.

The Supreme Court scheduled the matter for further hearing on October 30 and requested Additional Solicitor General SV Raju and Hossain to provide a list of key witnesses.

Raju expressed the Enforcement Directorate’s intention to file a response to Singhal’s plea and raised concerns about the legibility of Singhal’s medical records attached to the petition, suggesting that independent verification may be necessary.

Pooja Singhal has been in custody since May 11, 2022, following raids on properties associated with her in connection with a money laundering case related to alleged corruption in the implementation of MGNREGA, a flagship rural employment scheme.

The Enforcement Directorate has accused her of money laundering, seizing over Rs 36 crore linked to alleged illegal mining in two separate investigations. Singhal’s businessman husband, a chartered accountant, and others were also raided by the ED in connection with the probe, leading to her suspension.

Related Post