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Supreme Court reserves order on Manish Sisodia's bail plea in Delhi liquor scam

The Supreme Court reserved its order on Manish Sisodia's bail plea in connection with the Delhi liquor policy scam case.

Reported By : Bhaskar Mishra Edited By : Ashesh Mallick
New Delhi
Updated on: October 17, 2023 15:41 IST
Manish Sisodia, AAP
Image Source : PTI AAP leader Manish Sisodia

The Supreme Court on Tuesday (October 17) reserved its order on the bail plea filed by Aam Aadmi Party leader and former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia in connection with the Delhi liquor policy scam case.

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti reserved its verdict on two separate bail petitions by Sisodia after hearing his counsel Abhishek Singhvi and Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the CBI and ED.

Sisodia was arrested in the excise policy cases being investigated by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and  Enforcement Directorate (ED) earlier this year.

SC pulls up probe agencies

The Supreme Court on Monday (October 16) pulled up CBI and ED saying they cannot keep Sisodia in jail for an "indefinite period" in the excise policy cases.

The top court asked Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the two probe agencies, when will the arguments on charges against AAP leader commence in the trial court.

Making a strong observation, the bench said "You cannot keep him behind (bars) for an indefinite period. You cannot keep him behind like this. Once a chargesheet is filed in a case, arguments on charge should commence immediately." 

The Additional Solicitor General told the bench the cases against Sisodia are at the stage of section 207 of CrPC (supply of documents to the accused) and after that the arguments on charge will commence.

"Why have the arguments on charge not yet commenced and when will they commence? Tell us by tomorrow (Tuesday)," Justice Khanna told Raju.

Raju argues

During the hour-long hearing, Raju said if a person of the rank of deputy chief minister and holding 18 portfolios, including that of the excise department, accepts bribe then a proper example needs to be set.

"Just have a look at the role of this person. The consumers have been deprived of their money due to the policy changes. There are WhatsApp chats and other communications to show conspiracy of money laundering," Raju said while summarising his arguments on why Sisodia should not be granted bail.

Raju claimed there was sufficient material to show the offence of money laundering and to buttress the allegation of Sisodia having tampered with evidence by destroying his mobile phones, grounds that are sufficient for denial of bail.

"There was also an instance of arm-twisting where a wholesaler was forced to give up his licence while a firm was given the licence despite not qualifying the criteria," he said.

Raju referred to the statement of Delhi businessman Dinesh Arora, an accused-turned-approver, and claimed he had told the probe agencies about the bribes Sisodia took.

"He (Arora) has stated in his statement why he had not mentioned earlier about the role of Sisodia and has said that he was afraid that he will be harmed," the ASG said.

The bench asked whether prior approval has been taken to prosecute Sisodia under section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act to which Raju replied in the affirmative.

Section 17A stipulates a mandatory requirement for a police officer to seek prior approval from the competent authority for conducting any enquiry or inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed by a public servant under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PC Act).

Raju alleged the new excise policy encouraged cartelisation and was designed in such a manner that consumers ended up paying more.

What happened in previous hearings?

On October 5, the top court had posed a volley of questions to the CBI and the ED about the Delhi excise policy 'scam' and asked the anti-money laundering agency how a case was made out against Sisodia.

The top court had said merely because some lobby or pressure groups had sought a certain policy change does not imply there was corruption or commission of crime unless an element of bribery was involved.

Sisodia was arrested by the CBI on February 26 for his alleged role in the 'scam'. He has been in custody since then. The ED arrested him in a money laundering case stemming from the CBI FIR on March 9 after questioning him in Tihar Jail. Sisodia resigned from the Delhi cabinet on February 28.

The high court had denied him bail in the CBI case on May 30, saying having been the deputy chief minister and excise minister, he is a "high-profile" person who has the potential to influence the witnesses.

On July 3, the high court had declined him bail in the money laundering case linked to alleged irregularities in the city government's excise policy, holding that the charges against him are "very serious in nature".

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