Supreme Court Directs Ex-Unitech Promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra to Approach It for Bail, Sets Aside Magistrate’s Order

The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed jailed ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra to approach the top court for bail or other reliefs in cases related to alleged swindling of funds of home buyers.

The top court set aside an order of the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) of Patiala House Court dated January 13, 2021 by which they were granted bail.

The apex court had on March 18, 2021 stayed the CMM’s order and directed the two to surrender to Tihar Jail authorities on or before March 22, 2021. The Chandra brothers are currently lodged in two separate jails in Mumbai on the apex court’s direction.

A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice MR Shah said the CMM’s order was “erroneous” and “unsustainable”.

“We are of the view that the order of the CMM granting bail to the accused was patently in error. We accordingly set aside the order dated January 13, 2021. The accused have subsequently surrendered. Liberty is granted to them to move this court in the event that they seek to apply for bail or for appropriate directions”, the bench said.

During the hearing, senior advocate Siddharth Dave, appearing for the Chandras, said they have till now served more than five years in custody for the offences alleged against them.

He said they have even fulfilled the condition laid down by this court for depositing Rs 750 crore in the apex court registry and therefore they should be granted regular bail.

The bench, however, said the deposit of Rs 750 crore was argued earlier also but was rejected by the court on the grounds that there was a breach in adhering to the time line indicated by the court and the amount which had been deposited was the result of monetisation of the assets of Unitech Limited under the auspices of the court-appointed Committee chaired by Justice SN Dhingra.

The top court had on October 30, 2017 asked the Chandras to deposit Rs 750 crore as a precondition for grant of bail.

At the outset, the bench said when the top court is seized of the entire Unitech matter, the Chandra brothers cannot move the trial court for bail without its prior permission.

“You had moved the trial court for bail after withdrawing an application from the Delhi High Court on the ground that a charge sheet has been filed in a case probed by the Economic Offences wing of the Delhi police. This court had on August 14, 2020 rejected the bail applications of the accused by a speaking order. Question is that how could a magistrate grant bail, when the relief was denied by the top court,” the bench said.

Dave said since the March 18, 2021 order the circumstances have changed and now they have served more than five years and seven months in custody.

“They cannot be denied bail infinitely and some recourse has to be there,” he said.

The bench said the court will set aside the order of the CMM dated January 13, 2021 and grant liberty to both Sanjay and Ajay Chandra to move the apex court for regular bail or for appropriate directions for relief, as the case may be.

On August 26, 2021, the top court had directed that the erstwhile Unitech promoters be shifted from Tihar Jail here to the Arthur Road Jail and Taloja jail in Maharashtra.

Referring to the two reports of the Enforcement Directorate about the conduct of the two brothers and the connivance of Tihar jail staff in flouting the orders, the top court had said they had undermined the jurisdiction of the court and raised some “serious and disturbing” issues.

While ordering a probe against the Tihar Jail officials, the top court had said the ED’s reports indicated the manner in which the premises of Tihar Central Jail have been misused by the accused for engaging in illegal activities by flouting the jail manual, making transfers of assets, dissipating the proceeds of crime and influencing witnesses and attempting to derail the investigation.

The order had come after the ED made a startling revelation in the top court that during the investigation it unearthed a “secret underground office” in South Delhi which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay when on parole or bail.

The ED, which has been investigating money laundering charges against the Chandras and Unitech Ltd, had said the two brothers have rendered the entire judicial custody meaningless as they have been freely communicating, instructing their officials and disposing of properties from inside the jail with the connivance of the prison staff.

Both were initially arrested in a criminal case which started with one complaint lodged in 2015. Another 173 home buyers of of Unitech projects’ — ‘WildFlower Country’ and ‘Anthea Project’ — situated in Gurugram joined later.

Several cases were lodged by Delhi police, CBI and ED against the former Unitech promoters and other officials of the company.

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