Excise policy: HC seeks ED’s stand on bail plea by Vijay Nair in money laundering case

The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought the stand of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a plea by businessman and Aam Aadmi Party’s communication in-charge Vijay Nair seeking default bail in a money laundering case related to the alleged excise policy scam.

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma issued notice on the bail application and granted time to the investigation agency to file its reply.

Nair, who was arrested on November 13, 2022, was refused default bail in the case by the trial court on July 29.

The trial court had dismissed the bail plea, saying it was not the competent or an appropriate forum to consider the grounds of default bail of the accused and the appropriate course would be to approach the same judge or bench of the high court, which had earlier dismissed his bail plea, with a request for consideration of the point.

Senior advocate Rebecca John, appearing for Nair, contended before the high court that the ED filed “piecemeal charge sheets” in the matter and the accused was thus entitled to statutory bail.

The ED counsel opposed the bail plea, and said issue of default bail has already been unsuccessfully argued by the accused in an earlier bail plea.

John said bail is a right which impacts personal liberty and on the earlier occasion, the reference to default bail was only part of the “narrative” and was never pressed as a ground for bail.

Before the trial court, Nair’s counsel had contended that the supplementary prosecution complaint (charge sheet) filed by ED was within the statutory period of 60 days of arrest but without actual completion of the investigation qua him.

Hence, the supplementary prosecution complaint can only be termed as a piecemeal and incomplete charge sheet which has been filed by the ED just to defeat the right of an accused to be released on default bail, the counsel had argued.

The ED had opposed the plea on grounds of maintainability and had said the accused has already raised the argument of piecemeal or incomplete charge sheet before the high court in his previous bail plea.

The high court had on July 3 refused to grant bail to Nair and other co-accused in the money laundering case, including former Delhi chief minister Manish Sisodia.

The money laundering case has arisen from a CBI FIR which was lodged after Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe into the new excise policy in 2021 which was later scrapped.

The CBI has alleged that Nair was involved in meeting the other co-accused and liquor manufacturers as well as distributors at various hotels in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi for arranging “ill-gotten money through hawala operators”.

It has also claimed that businessman and co-accused Abhishek Boinpally was part of the meetings and involved in the conspiracy to launder money along with another accused liquor businessman Sameer Mahendru.

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In the money laundering case, the ED had raided nearly three dozen locations in Delhi and Punjab following the arrest of Mahendru, the managing director of liquor distributor Indospirit Group, which is based in Delhi’s Jor Bagh.

The other accused in the case are former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, former excise commissioner Arva Gopi Krishna, ex-deputy commissioner in the excise department Anand Tiwari and former assistant commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar.

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

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

The matter would be heard next on September 6.

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