The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a plea for bail filed by former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who is facing money laundering and corruption charges in the liquor policy ‘scam’ case.
A Bench headed by Justice Sanjiv Khanna, while denying bail, upheld Mr. Sisodia’s right to a speedy trial. It noted that the prosecution has already assured the court that the trial would be concluded in six to eight months.
The apex court directed that if however the trial was seen to proceed “sloppily” in the next three months, Mr. Sisodia, represented by senior advocate A.M. Singhvi, was at liberty to file a bail application.
“Detention or jail before being pronounced guilty of an offence should not become punishment without trial. If the trial gets protracted despite assurances of the prosecution, and it is clear that the case will not be decided within a foreseeable time, the prayer for bail may be meritorious. It is the basic right of the person charged with an offence and not convicted, that he be ensured and given a speedy trial,” Justice Khanna, who authored the judgment, reasoned.
The court also gave Mr. Sisodia liberty to file an application for interim bail in case of ill-health and medical emergency of his wife.
While pronouncing the judgment, Justice Khanna, referring to the CBI and Enforcement Directorate records, said a “transfer of ₹338 crore has been tentatively established”.
The judgment recapitulated from the CBI and Enforcement Directorate records that the “excess amount of 7% commission/fee earned by the wholesale distributors of ₹338 crore constitute an offence as defined under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act”. The court recorded that this amount was earned by the wholesale distributors in a span of 10 months. “This figure cannot be disputed or challenged. Thus, the new excise policy was meant to give windfall gains to select few wholesale distributors, who in turn had agreed to give kickbacks and bribes,” the court excerpted from the case records.
However, the court said the ED assertion that a kickback of ₹100 crore was actually paid by the liquor group was “somewhat a matter of debate”. In March, a trial court had dismissed Mr. Sisodia’s bail plea saying he was prima facie the “architect” of the alleged scam and had played the “most important and vital role” in the criminal conspiracy related to alleged payment of advance kickbacks of nearly ₹100 crore meant for him and his colleagues in the Delhi government.
Again, there was, prima facie, a lack of clarity about a specific allegation on the involvement of Mr. Sisodia, direct or indirect, in the transfer of ₹45 crore to the AAP for the Goa elections. Besides, the AAP, a political party and juristic person, is not being prosecuted.
The court had reserved the case for verdict on October 17. Mr. Sisodia was arrested on February 26 for alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 following several rounds of questioning.