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The Delhi High Court had said that an accused yet to be tried cannot be kept in custody merely on a hunch that he may prejudice or impede trial.
The Supreme Court yesterday issued notice to Shivinder Mohan Singh on a petition filed by the Enforcement Directorate challenging Delhi High Court’s order granting him bail in the Religare Finvest money laundering case. (Directorate of Enforcement vs Shivinder Mohan Singh)
The three-Judge Bench of Justices Arun Mishra, BR Gavai, and Krishna Murari said that there would be status quo as regards Singh’s custody and added that the judgment of the High Court ought not to be treated as precedent.
The Court fixed the date for hearing on this petition for next week and said,
A Single Judge Bench of Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani of the High Court had granted bail to Singh earlier this month subject to certain conditions like furnishing of a personal bond of Rs one crore and two sureties of Rs 25 lakh each and also a condition that Singh would not contact or engage with any of the officials of the financial institutions or banks that are involved in the case.
The other conditions imposed on Shivinder Singh include not leaving the country without the permission of the court, surrendering his passport, not tampering with evidence, not leaving his ordinary place of residence etc.
The Enforcement Directorate’s money laundering case against Shivinder Singh, his brother Malvinder Singh and others arises out of an FIR registered by the Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police on a complaint by Religare Finvest (RFL) which had accused the Singh brothers of siphoning off funds and diverting loans extended by RFL.
Shivinder Singh was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on December 12, 2019 and was remanded to 14 days' custody. Thereafter, he was sent to judicial custody.
After deatiled hearing, however, it was concluded by the High Court that sanctity must be attached to filing of chargesheet by an investigating agency. The High Court said that an accused yet to be tried cannot be kept in custody merely on a hunch that he may prejudice or impede trial.
The Court also said that while prison is a place for punishment, “no punishment can be legitimate without a trial.”
It is pertinent to note that Singh, despite this order, would not have been released from custody considering he has not secured bail in a case registered by the Delhi Police.
The ED, however, moved the Supreme Court in appeal against this judgment stating that the order was passed by the High Court while “adopting the approach of ignorance of the statutory provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 which causes serious prejudice to the case of the petitioner, especially one involving a case of serious financial misconduct and impropriety.”
The ED in its plea cited the gravity of offence alleged against Singh and said that the order for Singh’s bail is in the teeth of the twin conditions as stipulated under Section 45 of the PMLA. The Agency has stressed on the severity of economic offences as being offences against the society and averred that the Supreme Court’s judgments have held multiple times that economic offences ought to be treated differently in terms of bail.
The Court today issued notice on this plea and directed for status quo to be maintained as regards custody which essentially means Singh shall continue to be in custody considering he was not yet enlarged. The Court, while fixing the date for hearing in the case for next week, also observed that the High Court’s judgement ought not be used as a precedent and the order was purportedly against what the law is.
The ED was represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta with Advocates Amit Mahajan and Kanu Agrawal.