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SC grants liberty to Vijay Nair to move HC for early listing of bail plea

The high court had on April 12 sought the response of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Nair's plea seeking bail and posted the matter for further hearing on May 19

Supreme Court

Supreme Court

Press Trust of India
The Supreme Court on Monday granted liberty to Vijay Nair, businessman and Aam Aadmi Party's communication in-charge, to approach the Delhi High Court requesting for early listing of his bail plea in the money laundering case stemming from the alleged Delhi excise policy scam.
The high court had on April 12 sought the response of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Nair's plea seeking bail and posted the matter for further hearing on May 19.
Nair's petition came up for hearing on Monday before a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha which refused to entertain it at this stage and posted the matter for further hearing on May 19.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Nair, said the high court had issued notice and posted the matter for hearing after five weeks despite the fact that the plea is for bail.
He said Nair was granted bail on November 14 last year in connection with a corruption case related to the alleged scam being probed by the CBI.
Singhvi said on February 16 this year the trial court had rejected Nair's plea seeking bail in the money laundering case after which he had approached the high court.
He referred to a judgement of the apex court which said bail applications ought to be disposed of within a period of two weeks except where the provisions mandate otherwise, with the exception being an intervening application.
"You can move before the single judge of the high court for early date of listing," the bench observed.
The apex court noted a single judge of the high court had on April 12 posted the matter for hearing on May 19.
"Having regard to the above fact, we are not inclined to entertain this SLP (special leave petition) at this stage. However, we leave it open to the petitioner to move the single judge of the high court for earlier listing of the application for bail," the bench said.
On April 12, the high court had issued notice to the ED on the petition in which Nair has said he was only the media and communications in charge of AAP and was not involved in the drafting, framing or implementation of the excise policy in any manner and that he was being "victimised" for his political affiliation.
The trial court had refused to grant bail to Nair and four other accused-- Sameer Mahendru, Sharath Reddy, Abhishek Boinpally and Benoy Babu-- on February 16 while noting further investigation was still pending and it was not possible to hold that they would make no attempt to tamper with the evidence if released.
In his bail plea before the high court, Nair has said the trial court "wrongfully and illegally" refused to grant him relief and claimed the allegations against him are wrong, false and without any basis.
The petition before the high court asserted that his arrest on November 13 last year was completely illegal and "appears to be motivated by extraneous considerations" given that the special court was expected to pronounce orders on his bail plea in the corruption case being probed by the CBI.
"Petitioner is being victimised on account of his political affiliation and there is no merit whatsoever in the FIR or ostensibly the ECIR (ED's version of FIR) being investigated by the Respondent... The Petitioner is liable to be enlarged on bail and his constitutionally protected freedom of liberty be protected by this Hon'ble Court," the plea has stated.
It claimed the ED has not been able to establish any money trail leading to the petitioner much less to any public servant and "loose, uncorroborated" allegations cannot constitute the basis of a prosecution.
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 Boinpally was part of the meetings and involved in the conspiracy to launder money along with another accused liquor businessman Sameer Mahendru.
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.

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First Published: Apr 24 2023 | 4:59 PM IST

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