The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain a plea of former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia, seeking bail and quashing of the FIR in the excise policy case, saying it would set a “wrong precedent” and efficacious alternative remedies are available to him.
“Since the petitioner (Sisodia) has efficacious alternate remedies available under the provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973, we are not inclined to entertain the petition under Article 32 of the Constitution, at this stage. The petition is accordingly disposed of,” a bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P S Narasimha said.
The bench observed that just because the incident has happened in Delhi, Sisodia cannot come to the apex court directly as he has his remedies before the trial court concerned as well as the Delhi High Court.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Sisodia, questioned the need of arresting the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader saying policy decisions were taken at different rung and moreover, no money was recovered. He said that the Lieutenant Governor was also part of the policy decision in the excise policy.
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As the apex court observed that it would not entertain the plea at this stage, Singhvi withdrew it.
Arnab Goswami case sited
At the outset, the bench asked, “You are invoking Article 32 to challenge an FIR and for bail. You have your remedies.” Singhvi referred to the apex court judgements in the case of journalists Arnab Goswami and Vinod Dua.
“Arnab Goswami case had travelled to this court from the Bombay High Court,” the CJI said, adding that Duas case was about freedom of speech and expression of a journalist and the present matter relates to the Prevention of Corruption Act.
“Here, you have a full remedy available which is open to you either in the form of filing bail before the competent court or 482 (Code of Criminal Procedure) before the high court,” the bench said.
Singhvi said he was not on the merits of the matter and highlighted some points, including that FIR in the case was registered in August 2022. He said Sisodia was called twice for questioning and admittedly, he had attended both.
Triple test for arrest
Contending that the arrest per se would be illegal, Singhvi referred to the triple test for arrest — flight risk, not attending summons and interfering with evidence. “None of the three arise in my case. I (Sisodia) have roots in the society. I hold 18 portfolios. Flight risk is out of the question,” he said, adding there is not a single proof of any kind of interference.
“The allegation is of multi-level decision making on excise policy. It goes from the under secretary, joint secretary, secretary, cabinet, chief minister and the LG (Lieutenant Governor). All have approved the excise policy,” Singhvi argued.
The CJI said, “We are not saying that we are bereft of powers.”
“It is a very wrong precedent,” the bench said, adding that the petitioner can move the high court.
“This is a case involving the PC (Prevention of Corruption) Act,” the CJI said, asking, “Can you not say the same things to the Delhi High Court?”
Singhvi said the relevant roster judge in the high court is holding charge of a PFI tribunal and 60 per cent of the time, he is not holding court as he has to hold the tribunal.
“All this problem, the chief justice is there. You can mention it before the chief justice,” the CJI told Singhvi.
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‘Not named in chargesheet’
Singhvi said Sisodia is not named in any chargesheet and no pecuniary advantage is alleged against him. “There is a basic structure issue, a larger issue… Without a 41-A … necessity of arrest against political leader of several political party, then there is a issue of a non-level playing field,” he said.
When the bench said it was not inclined to entertain the plea at this stage, Singhvi said he would withdraw the plea.
Singhvi said the bail be decided expeditiously by the trial court. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, said the agency is seeking Sisodia’s remand also.
Vinod Dua judgement
Earlier in the day, the top court had agreed to hear on Tuesday itself the plea of Sisodia after Singhvi had mentioned it for urgent hearing. “Your lordships have (delivered) 32 judgements and this (case of Sisodia) falls under remit of the Vinod Dua (judgement),” Singhvi had said while mentioning the matter.
The late veteran journalist was granted protection from coercive action by the Supreme Court in criminal cases registered against him for allegedly making objectionable statements in connection with the 2020 Delhi riots in a YouTube programme.
A special Delhi court on Monday sent Sisodia to five-day CBI remand in the excise policy case to allow the agency to get “genuine and legitimate” answers to questions being put to him for “a proper and fair investigation”.
Also read: Manish Sisodia sent to CBI custody till March 4; AAP to continue protests
Special CBI judge M K Nagpal, on Monday, allowed the plea of CBI seeking custodial interrogation of Sisodia for five days in the excise scam case.
The CBI on Sunday evening arrested Sisodia in connection with alleged corruption in the formulation and implementation of the now-scrapped liquor policy for 2021-22.
(With agency inputs)