In a significant legal development, the Supreme Court of India is set to pronounce its judgment on the bail applications filed by Manish Sisodia, the leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and former Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, in a case related to the Delhi liquor policy scam. The verdict is scheduled to be delivered on October 30, following a series of hearings and dramatic moments in the courtroom.
A bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti had heard Sisodia’s bail applications in connection with cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The judgment was reserved on October 17. Notably, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is handling the case under the Prevention of Corruption Act, while the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) is responsible for the Prevention of Money Laundering Act case.
During the course of the hearings, the bench raised crucial questions. One noteworthy inquiry was directed at the ED, questioning why the political party allegedly benefiting from the money laundering was not included as an accused party. In response, the ED informed the Supreme Court that it is considering making AAP an accused in the case.
The bench also sought clarity on the sustainability of the money laundering case if no money trail was found that directly implicated Sisodia. Additionally, it asked whether the Prevention of Money Laundering Act case could encompass bribery allegations that were not present in the predicate offense (the CBI case).
During the hearings, the bench made a significant observation, highlighting that a person cannot be held behind bars indefinitely. It also questioned the agencies about when the charges would be framed in the case.
Sisodia’s legal troubles began when he was arrested on February 26 of the current year by the CBI. Subsequently, the ED also took him into custody.
The agencies involved in the case allege that the excise policy, which aimed to offer a 12 percent wholesale business profit to specific private companies, was part of a conspiracy. This profit-sharing was allegedly planned without being mentioned in the minutes of meetings of the Group of Ministers (GoM). Furthermore, the agency claims that a coordinated conspiracy, orchestrated by Vijay Nair and others, was meant to provide exceptional profit margins to wholesalers. Nair purportedly acted on behalf of Delhi’s Chief Minister, Arvind Kejriwal, and Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia.
Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Manish Sisodia, argued that there was no money trail directly implicating Sisodia. He contended that there was no evidence linking Sisodia to the independent offense of money laundering as per Section 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. Regarding the controversy surrounding the liquor policy, Singhvi asserted that the new policy, a collective institutional decision, aimed to break the cartelization prevalent among private manufacturers. The policy had the effect of increasing revenues and curbing unreasonable and exorbitant profits earned by wholesalers. Singhvi also highlighted Sisodia’s minimal flight risk and his inability to influence witnesses, providing strong grounds for his bail.
The Supreme Court’s forthcoming judgment in this case is anticipated to have a significant impact on the legal landscape surrounding political and financial cases in India, particularly those related to corruption and money laundering. This ruling will set an important precedent for the interpretation of relevant legal provisions and the criteria for granting bail in such cases.