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OpinionsBail is Not a Certificate of Innocence

Bail is Not a Certificate of Innocence

Date:

by Dr. Jaipal Singh

Arvind Kejriwal led Aam Admi Party (AAP) came in existence in 2012 riding on the wave of a people's movement against corruption in public governance. It had tremendous success in Delhi by forming three consecutive state governments ever since, which also triggered its convenor Kejriwal and his key associates' ambition to expand nationally largely by usurping the existing voters base of the country's oldest political party, the Indian Congress. Although the decay had started in 1990s itself, but the Congress is currently in doldrums largely on account of its poor leadership, defective policies and its implementation, over-indulgence and promotion of the particular minority community at the cost of the socio-economic and cultural growth and development of the nation's largest community. The most ironical part of the AAP is that its majority of well-meaning leaders either left or were ousted by the party leadership and Kejriwal and his key associates are now accused of same corruption cases, against which they made their success stories.

Of the four top leaders namely Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Rajya Sabha Member of Parliament Sanjay Singh and Satyendra Kumar Jain had landed in jail; the first three men for their role in now the ill-famous Delhi Liquor Scam while Jain in another money laundering case. Kejriwal has already created a constitutional dilemma and unprecedented situation that may soon turn into a political crisis over his constant refusal to resign from the post of the chief minister, instead he is emphasizing his resolve to run the Delhi government from the jail. Party colleague and key confidante Sanjay Singh has been granted a conditional bail by the Supreme Court of only a few days back after the Enforcement Directorate decided not to oppose his bail. However, the way he has started conducting himself and flouting the conditions of bail soon after his release, one should not be surprised if he again lands up in trouble in time to come.

Recently, the Delhi Liquor Scam has turned out to be a big and scandalous multi-billion rupees scam involving top leaders of the Aam Admi Party, and certain public/private individuals and companies. The ruling Aam Admi Party (AAP) in Delhi had introduced a new Excise Policy in the year 2021-22 that allowed private firms and entrepreneurs to operate into the retail liquor earlier run through the government-controlled shops. When the policy was introduced by the Delhi government, it was touted as a pathbreaking reform in the excise and retail liquor sector which inter alia aimed at boosting the revenue collection by about Rs 9,500 crores annually. The policy actually sought to focus on moving out the retail sector, paving the entry of the large private sector and firms. While introducing it in 2021, the Delhi government claimed that the implementation of the new Liquor Policy would eliminate the liquor mafia, enhance consumer experiences at the new outlets and augment revenue collection many folds needed for various welfare schemes. However soon after the implementation of the policy, complaints and allegations of favoritism, kickbacks and corruption at the highest level in government surfaced with the strong criticism from the opposition parties, the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and the Congress.

Allegations were made that the government sold the licenses in exchange for money, the new policy contradicted the extant excise rules and norms and businessmen were willfully and arbitrarily given exemptions of heavy sums. The charges of corrupt practices included instances of unauthorized collection of money, bribery by the officials and undue favors to the private parties. The then Deputy Chief Minster Manish Sisodia was accused of bending rules and providing undue benefits to the liquor vend licensees, and accordingly arrested by the ED in February 2023. The new Excise policy was withdrawn by the Delhi government after about two months of Sisodia's arrest. As the gamut of the ED and CBI investigation increased with more revelations, the ED arrested yet another key leader and member of parliament Sanjay Singh for his role in money laundering related to the Delhi Liquor Scam on 4 October 2023 and, more recently, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after he constantly defied the ED summons and the Delhi High Court refused to grant him any relief. Incidentally, Sanjay Singh was third AAP leader to be arrested as a “key conspirator” and beneficiary of bribery in the alleged scam after the former Deputy Chief Minister Sisodiya and communication in-charge Vijay Nair.

Sanjay Singh was arrested on 4 October 2023 after nearly 10-hour search at his home in North Avenue, New Delhi. The ED called Singh a “key conspirator” in the alleged scam, wherein the Policy was formulated with deliberate loopholes promoting cartel formations that ultimately benefitted the AAP leaders. The charges as levied by the ED against Singh while seeking his remand in October 2023 inter alia suggested that he had exploited and gained illegal money/ kickbacks, which is ‘proceeds of crime' generated from the liquor policy (2021-22). The ED maintained that Singh has been part of the conspiracy of collecting kickbacks from liquor groups and also that he had close relationship with Dinesh Arora since 2017, aa prime accused in the Delhi Liquor Scam who turned approver later on. Dinesh Arora is a Delhi businessman who is accused by the ED to be a conduit for kickbacks between the South Group and AAP. The ED officials held that Arora had spoken to many restaurant owners at Sanjay Singh's behest and arranged cheques amounting to 82 lakhs for AAP funds for the upcoming elections besides giving Rs two crore in cash to Singh at his residence.

On an earlier occasion in January, while opposing Singh's bail petition in the Delhi High Court, the ED had levelled allegation against him that the evidences suggest that he was involved in creating a special purpose vehicle (M/s Aravalis Hospitality Pvt Ltd) to launder the proceeds of crime that would have been generated from the owing to the excise policy changes as conspired by him and co-conspirators. Singh was stated to have been involved in acquiring, possessing, concealing, dissipating and using proceeds of crime generated from the Delhi Liquor Scam pertaining to the policy period 2021-2022. The PMLA court and High Court in Delhi had refused Singh's bail in earlier occasions citing his role in conspiracy and the specific allegation that Rs two crore (bribe) was paid to Sanjay Singh at his official residence through another accused Sarvesh Mishra. In lieu of the new excise policy made to suit them and generate profit for them. From various accounts and observations of courts, it appears that Delhi Chief Minister Kejriwal and former Deputy Chief Minister Sisodia had direct role in the policy formation with purported criminal objectives while Singh had a role in the conspiracy and received specific amount of bribe through a person.

During the hearing for bail of the AAP MP in the Supreme Court on 02 April 2024, the counsel of the ED did not oppose his bail petition stating that they had no objection if Sanjay Singh was released on bail in proceedings arising out of the (earlier) FIR. Consequently, the three judges' bench granted a conditional bail with the bench inter alia observing that Singh can continue his political activities but cannot make any statements with regard to the liquor case. The order specifically said that the bench has allowed the present appeal directing that Sanjay Singh be released on bail during the pendency of trial on the terms and conditions to be set by the trial court (Delhi's Rouse Avenue court). Accordingly, the Rouse Avenue court specifically said that Singh wouldn't comment on his role in the now withdrawn Delhi Excise Policy besides fixing certain terms for his conditional release.

During the hearing, the court also observed about imposing the condition that Singh would not leave NCR while on bail. On this, Singh's counsel requested the trial court judge that the election campaigning for the Lok Sabha was underway and being a senior political leader of the AAP, the MP (Sanjay Singh) would be required to campaign at various places. Accordingly, this condition was waived by the judge with the condition that he will share detailed itinerary via email and keep his Google location on if he departs from Delhi NCR. Additionally, he must share his location with the investigation officer too and that he would not be allowed to leave the country.

Sanjay Singh has been one of the most trusted and firebrand close associates of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. His alleviation as member of AAP in the Rajya Sabha itself was not without controversy within the party itself and his lack of discretion and sobriety in statements while dealing with the political adversaries has often invited controversies, at times putting him in difficult situations in the past. For instance, he accused revenue minister Bikram Singh Majithia from the Congress of being complicit with the drug trade while not doing enough to control the drug menace in Punjab. Following this, Majithia had filed a defamation suit against him, Arvind Kejriwal and Ashish Khetan of the AAP. Ultimately, the AAP Convenor and Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had to apologize to Majithia unconditionally on behalf of his party's slander against him. He has been frequently criticizing Prime Minister Modi and BJP very often with unsubstantiated and baseless allegations against them and other political adversaries.

Even in the Rajya Sabha sittings, his conduct has so often invited controversies and rebuff from the chair in the past. During the discussions on three Farm bills in 2020 in the Rajya Sabha, Sanjay Singh along with seven others were suspended for the rest of the session over the chaos and ruckus in the House during the passing of the bills. He, however, along some other members refused to leave the house disobeying the Chairman's ruling. He along with members of other opposition parties were suspended for displaying “unruly behavior especially with the Chair and gross disorderly conduct”, followed by refusal to leave the house protesting loudly against the action, and thereby causing repeated adjournments (as many as five) of the Rajya Sabha. More recently in July 2023 too, the Chairman of Rajya Sabha & Vice-President Mr. Jagdeep Dhankhar was constrained to suspend Singh for the entire session for his unruly conduct on the Manipur violence issue, moving into the Well of the House and constantly violating the directives of the Chair.

The other day, when he walked out of Tihar jail after about six months in judicial custody on 03 April 2024, he didn't show any symbol of being humbled or mellowed down with his recent jail experience. A large crowd of the Aam Admi Party workers and supporters greeted him outside with showering of flower petals as if he is back with some great achievement for the party and people. Addressing the crowd of his supporters, a jubilant Sanjay Singh spoke, “Jashn manane ka waqt nahi aya hai, sangharsh ka waqt hai… hamaari party ke senior leaders Arvind Kejriwal, Satyendra Jain aur Manish Sisodia jail me hain. Mujhe vishwas hai ki jail ke taale tutenge aur woh baher aayenge. (It's not a time for celebration, but time for the struggle/fight… Our party's senior leaders Arvind Kejriwal, Satyendra Jain and Manish Sisodia have been kept behind bars. I have confidence that the locks of the jail will break and they will come out.)”

Ever since he has been released from the Tihar jail, he is constantly attacking on the BJP and its leadership. On one occasion, he said that the BJP has inducted all corrupt leaders and it was time to give a befitting reply to that party. He also alleged that the top leadership of the BJP is involved in a conspiracy to arrest Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as also that party is responsible for the Delhi Liquor Policy scam. He charged the BJP in a press conference in Delhi, “A big conspiracy has taken place to put Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal behind bars. The BJP is responsible for the liquor scam. The senior leadership of the party are involved in this.” According to Singh, the accused Magunta Reddy and his son Raghav Magunta were made to give several statements by the ED, and they were tortured and coerced until they gave false statement to implicate CM Kejriwal in the said scam.

Here it is significant to note that the AAP MP Sanjay Singh was granted bail by the Supreme Court and one of the conditions was that he would not speak about the case in public. However, from his press conference, public statements and interview to private news channels, it appears he is not scrupulously complying with the directives of the court. However, the interesting part is that, after his release, he has not mentioned the Congress or its leaders in his averments in spite of the fact that this was Congress which had actually filed a written complaint with the Delhi police in 2022 against the AAP and party leaders charging them of the liquor scam with corrupt practices and kickbacks with many Congress leaders making public statements releasing material with evidential value. The BJP has now even publicly accused Sanjay Singh of violating bail condition that may have consequences.

In his press conference, interaction with media, chat with news channel anchors and party workers, he denies if liquor scam ever took place and gives clean chit to the party colleagues Kejriwal, Sisodia, etc., alleging that they have been framed without any evidence merely based on the statement of some witnesses taken under coercion by the investigating agency owing to elections at the behest of the BJP. What he does not mention is that the special PMLA court, or for that matter any higher court, under the CrPC section 164 matches confession or statements (recorded by Magistrate) of witnesses and evidences produced too. During investigation, it was revealed that as many as 170 mobiles phones were either destroyed or formatted by the accused personnel as also the AAP leaders like Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Sanjay Singh did not reveal whereabouts of their old phones on various pretexts and, as per ED, the former (AK) refused to give its password to the ED for examination. Reportedly, the investigating agency has so far filed at least six chargesheets in the court against about thirty accused personnel in the liquor scam.

 

 

 

Northlines
Northlines
The Northlines is an independent source on the Web for news, facts and figures relating to Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh and its neighbourhood.

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