The Delhi High Court Wednesday granted bail to alleged hawala operator Avtar Singh Kochhar in cases involving “extortion” of Rs 200 crore by Sukesh Chandrasekhar.
Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma gave Kochhar the relief in the cases lodged by the Delhi police and Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing alleged money laundering by Chandrasekhar and others.
Justice Sharma observed that the petitioner was 69 years of age, had several ailments, and in the facts and circumstances of the cases, he was entitled to bail.
“Merely because the petitioner has been alleged to be a Hawala Operator, the bail cannot be denied to him. The court is required to keep itself confined to the facts of the present case. It is also pertinent to mention that heinous the offence alleged, harsher the onus on the prosecution to prove,” said the court while granting bail to Kochhar in the money laundering case.
“The petitioner is admitted to court bail ..(He) shall furnish a personal bail bond in the sum of Rs.5,00,000/- with two sureties of the like amount subject to the satisfaction of the learned Trial Court/CMM/Duty MM,” the court ordered in both cases.
It also said if the petitioner was a hawala operator, the State was at liberty to initiate any action against him in accordance with law and, even in economic offences, it was not a rule that bail should be denied in every case.
Alleged conman Chandrasekhar, who is currently in jail, is accused of cheating many people, including high-profile individuals such as former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh’s wife Aditi Singh.
Police alleged Chandrasekhar and his associates “extorted” money from Aditi Singh after posing as government officials and promising to secure bail for her husband who was in jail in a money laundering case.
Police have also invoked the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) in the case.
The ED subsequently launched a probe under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on the basis of the police case.
Kochhar is accused of orchestrating hawala operations at Chandrasekhar’s behest.
Kochhar’s lawyers– senior advocate Vikas Pahwa and advocate Mrinal Bharti –senior partner at MZM Legal, argued there was no evidence to incriminate him and claimed he had no knowledge of the alleged extortion.
The court, while dealing with the police case, observed that the role of the petitioner was confined to allegedly facilitating the transfer of extorted money through hawala channels and that there was no evidence of direct interaction between the accused and Chandrasekhar.
“The evidence against the petitioner are confessional statement which though can be seen at this stage but the evidentiary value of the same has to be seen during the trial,” it said.
“It is also a settled proposition that the period of incarceration and factum of trial not likely to be concluded in the near future may be taken into consideration while considering the bail,” stated the court.
The court also imposed several conditions on Kochhar, including that he will not leave the country or the National Capital Region (NCR) without judicial permission and regularly appear before the investigating agencies.