Published on: November 20, 2023 at 17:47 IST
The Supreme Court, on Monday, acknowledged the plea filed by Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Member of Parliament, Sanjay Singh.
The legislator is contesting his recent arrest and subsequent remand by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on charges related to money laundering. The charges stem from alleged irregularities associated with the formulation and execution of a now-defunct liquor policy in Delhi.
Sanjay Singh, who has been in custody since his arrest by the ED last month, sought relief from the Supreme Court after the Delhi High Court rejected his appeal to nullify the arrest order.
The bench, comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti, entertained Singh’s plea during the hearing.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Singh, challenged the legitimacy of the arrest, contending that it was void ab initio. Singhvi argued that Section 19, which outlines the prerequisites for a lawful arrest under anti-money laundering legislation, includes safeguards against arbitrary use of power. Notably, the section mandates the recording of reasons for the belief in the person’s involvement in money laundering and informing the arrested individual of the grounds for arrest.
Justice Khanna pointed out that Singh was given a detailed six-page document outlining the grounds of arrest, to which Singhvi asserted that this case was distinct. Singhvi emphasized that the statutory test outlined in Section 19 had not been fulfilled in Singh’s case, citing the phrases “Reason to believe,” “Basis of material,” “Guilty,” and “May arrest.”
Justice Khanna raised concerns about the ambiguity in Section 19 and emphasized that guilt cannot be pronounced at the initial stage of arrest. Despite agreeing to issue a notice, the judge advised Singh to file a separate application for regular bail, stating that the bail jurisdiction is broader.
The bench issued the notice returnable in the week commencing December 11, allowing Singh to file a regular bail application in the meantime. The court emphasized that any bail application would be considered on its own merits without impacting the ongoing judgment.
Background of the Case:
The controversy originated from the excise policy implemented by the Delhi government in 2021, aimed at boosting revenue and reforming the liquor trade. However, allegations of irregularities led to the withdrawal of the policy, followed by a CBI probe.
The Enforcement Directorate and CBI claim a coordinated conspiracy to favor private entities over public funds. The investigations have resulted in arrests, including that of Manish Sisodia, former deputy chief minister, and now Sanjay Singh.
Sanjay Singh, presently in judicial custody, faces allegations of receiving funds related to the liquor policy scam. Despite Singh’s claims of political motivation, the Delhi High Court, in a recent judgment, emphasized that the court cannot interfere in the absence of substantial evidence supporting such allegations.
The court underscored the importance of treating Singh on par with any other accused in a criminal case, emphasizing the state’s right to investigate. The investigation is ongoing, and Singh’s petition was deemed premature by the High Court.
Sanjay Singh v. Union of India & Anr. | Special Leave Petition (Criminal) No. 14510 of 2023