Supreme Court Reserves Judgment on Manish Sisodia’s Bail Plea Amid PMLA Case Challenges

LI Network

Published on: October 17, 2023 at 16:55 IST

The Supreme Court has reserved its judgment on the bail plea of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia. He faces money laundering and corruption charges related to alleged irregularities in the now-defunct liquor policy of the national capital.

Sisodia, a leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), has been in custody since February and is under investigation by both the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Enforcement (ED).

A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti has been hearing Sisodia’s appeals against the denial of bail in both the CBI and ED cases by the Delhi High Court. The Supreme Court had issued notices in response to his petitions last month.

In the recent arguments, Senior Advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Sisodia, emphasized that there were no allegations of bribery related to Sisodia in the CBI’s predicate offense under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).

Singhvi contended that without a predicate offense, the ED’s presence in the case was questionable, especially concerning an alleged bribe of 220 crore related to the modification of the liquor policy for airport licenses. He stressed the importance of a genuine predicate offense in a PMLA case.

Justice Khanna also raised concerns, stating that if the bribe was not part of the predicate offense, it might be challenging to prove PMLA. He pointed out that creating a predicate offense within a PMLA case based on assumptions was not permissible.

In response, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju argued that, according to Section 66(2) of the PMLA, the ED could inform the jurisdictional police about new information. However, Justice Khanna insisted on avoiding presumptions.

The discussion also touched on the delay in the trials, with Sisodia’s counsel arguing that keeping him in custody with a significant number of witnesses and documents while the trial has not yet started was unjust. Singhvi contended that there was no evidence linking Sisodia to money laundering and that the criteria for granting bail had been met.

Manish Sisodia’s case stems from allegations that he pressured excise officials to grant a license to the company IndoSpirit. The ASG had argued that Indospirit’s profit margin for the policy period was Rs. 192 crore, and that significant efforts were made to ensure that Indospirit received this profit.

Sisodia’s counsel countered that there was no evidence indicating that Sisodia insisted on granting a license to Indospirit in violation of the law. They argued that the allegation against Sisodia was far-fetched, as it was based on the idea that the policy he created helped the company generate profits.

The Supreme Court’s inquiry into the non-inclusion of the political party allegedly benefiting from the excise policy controversy raised concerns but was clarified to be a legal question regarding the culpability of suspected co-conspirators. In the course of this hearing, the Enforcement Directorate was rumored to be considering arraigning the Aam Aadmi Party as one of the accused, but the central agency made no official statement on this matter.

Sisodia’s case revolves around the 2021 liquor policy in Delhi and allegations of corruption in its implementation. Singhvi argued that no direct money trail implicating Sisodia had been found. The Enforcement Directorate and the Central Bureau of Investigation have claimed that the policy favored private entities at the expense of the public exchequer and raised corruption concerns.

Manish Sisodia was first arrested by the CBI on February 26 and later by the ED on March 9. His bail applications in both cases were initially rejected by the trial court in Delhi.

The case highlights the importance of establishing a genuine predicate offense in PMLA cases and the necessity for a solid legal foundation for such charges. The Supreme Court’s final judgment will have significant implications for the ongoing investigation and potential prosecution of Manish Sisodia.

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