In what may be seen as another setback for AAP leader Satyendar Jain, the Delhi High Court, citing Supreme Court judgement on the “reasonableness of apprehension”, dismissed Jain’s plea challenging a court order transferring hearing in the alleged money laundering case against him from one judge to another. Currently, Jain is in judicial custody.
Why ED sought immediate transfer
On September 15, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had sought that the case be transferred to another judge, alleging that Special Judge Gitanjali Goel was biased. Goel, who was initially hearing Jain’s case, had rebuked the agency over its investigation while hearing the bail pleas of the Aam Aadmi Party leader and two of his aides – Vaibhav Jain and Ankush Jain.
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The ED apprehended that the AAP leader may be misusing his position by feigning illness. The investigating officer on visit found that during his hospitalisation Jain was lying on bed without any canula on his hands, without any oxygen mask and multi parameter monitor switched off.
Additional Solicitor General, appearing for the ED told the court that Jain having served as a minister could influence the doctors and jail authorities and managed to get forged documents while seeking interim bail on grounds of ill-health.
ED’s aggressive approach
Jain moved the apex court after ED sought change of the trial court judge. The SC then directed the Delhi Principal and Session Judge to take up the matter immediately and decide. The ruling, however, went against Jain as the court favoured ED and transferred the case to a new trial judge. Not happy with the order, the minister again moved Delhi HC against the transfer of the case. Here too, the HC concurred with the ED and dismissed Jain’s plea.
Replying to the question on AAP’s next legal attempt to secure bail for Jain, AAP leader Durgesh Pathak told The Federal that Saturday’s HC order is currently being studied and the party will take appropriate steps after consulting its legal team.
“Our legal team is studying the order in detail and we will surely come up with a legal solution to counter that,” stated the leader who is in-charge of MCD polls in Delhi slated later this year.
Kapil Sibal’s rejoinder
Appearing for Jain, senior advocate Kapil Sibal took the court through the facts of the case by submitting that the issue arose after Jain moved a regular bail application before the Special Judge on August 17, having been denied the same once in June.
Calling the agency’s application as a mala fide plea, Sibal said that no apprehension was put forth by ED before September 15 when the matter was being heard in its final stages.
The transfer nod
On September 23, Principal District and Sessions Judge of Rouse Avenue Court allowed an application moved by the ED, seeking transfer of proceedings against Jain in the matter. The case, which was earlier being heard by Special Judge Geetanjali Goel, was directed to be heard by Special Judge Vikas Dhull.
Charges against Jain
The CBI had registered an FIR against Jain and other individuals in 2017 in a money laundering case, under the Prevention of Corruption Act, wherein it was alleged that during the period of February 2015 to May 2017, the minister had acquired assets disproportionate to his known sources of income. The CBI had then filed a chargesheet in December 2018 against Jain.
Following the chargesheet, ED launched a criminal investigation against the AAP leader, stating that Jain could not explain the source of money received by four firms in which he was a stakeholder. The businesses reportedly laundered Rs 16.39 crore in cash between 2010 and 2014.
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The case was nearing its conclusion when the ED requested a transfer, claiming prejudice on the side of the judge. The Principal District and Sessions Judge granted the transfer request after receiving instructions from the Supreme Court.
Jain had petitioned the Supreme Court after the Principal District and Sessions Judge Vinay Kumar Gupta halted the bail hearing proceedings in his case. The Supreme Court stated that it would be unable to consider the challenge to the aforementioned application.