Excise case: Delhi HC asks two accused to respond to ED’s plea seeking cancellation of their bail

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the response of two persons, accused in a money laundering case related to the alleged excise policy scam, on pleas by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) seeking a cancellation of their bail.

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma issued notices to the two businessmen — Rajesh Joshi and Gautam Malhotra — on the ED’s pleas challenging a trial court’s May 6 order granting them bail in the case.

The high court said the observations made by the trial court judge in the bail order shall not be relied upon by other co-accused or any other person.

Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, representing the ED, said the trial court had taken cognisance of the chargesheet filed in the case on May 1, noting that prima facie case was made out. However, on May 6, the trial court granted bail to the two accused observing that no offence was made out.

“So there is contradiction in the two orders. The trial court conducted a mini trial which could not have been done at this stage,” the law officer said, adding the trial court’s bail order was erroneous as it indirectly reviews its own May 1 order.

The ASG further submitted that the trial court gave a wrong finding that the investigation in the matter was still pending and the two accused persons were entitled for bail.

The high court listed the matter for further hearing in July.

The trial court had granted bail to Malhotra and Joshi, saying the evidence was not sufficient for the case against them to be considered prima facie “genuine”.

It had also said the mere apprehension that the accused may commit an offence again will not be sufficient to oppose bail.

The same trial court judge had dismissed the bail plea of AAP leader Manish Sisodia, also accused in a corruption case related to the excise policy, on April 28 and in a related corruption case being probed by the CBI on March 31.

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Sisodia, who was arrested on March 9, is currently in judicial custody in the ED case. The court on April 28 dismissed his bail application in the case, saying the evidence prima facie “speaks volumes of his involvement in commission of the offence”.

The ED is investigating alleged irregularities in the implementation of the now-scrapped liquor policy of the Delhi government. The money laundering case stems from a CBI FIR.

According to the CBI and the ED, irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy and undue favours were extended to licence holders.

The Delhi government implemented the policy on November 17, 2021, but scrapped it at the end of September 2022 amid allegations of corruption.

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