On March 10, a Delhi Court observed that Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia was instrumental in the formulation and implementation of Delhi’s excise policy for 2021 to 2022 and said that his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for money laundering was justified, Live Law reported.
Special Judge MK Nagpal observed that the ED has the power to seek Manish Sisodia’s custody for further examination and interrogation. Therefore, the Delhi Court remanded Manish Sisodia to 7 days of ED’s custody in the money laundering case till March 17. Furthermore, the Court adjourned Manish Sisodia’s bail application hearing until March 21.
The Court observed that Manish Sisodia was Delhi’s Excise Minister and thus responsible for formulating and implementing Delhi’s excise policy. The Court said, “Thus, as per allegations made in this remand application, the accused was instrumental at every stage of formulation as well as implementation of the excise policy and he appears to be connected not only with generation of proceeds of crime, but also its repayment or re-coupment.”
Furthermore, the Court observed that nothing suggested, from the case file produced by the IO, that Manish Sisodia’s arrest was effected in violation of section 19 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act or that the same was otherwise illegal. The Court said that the IO recorded reasons for his belief about Manish Sisodia’s guilt and informed Manish Sisodia of the grounds according to the mandate contained in the provision.
The Court observed, “The question whether or not the accused is entitled to a copy of the document containing grounds of his arrest will be decided separately after hearing the detailed submissions of both parties on the application, which has been moved separately for this purpose on behalf of the accused, and prima facie, the provisions of Section 19 of the said Act are found to have been complied in substance.”
The Court observed that the ED’s power to seek remand is a part of their power to arrest and investigate, which can be inferred from section 65 of the PMLA. The Court said, “The power to seek remand is essentially a part of the power of arrest and to conduct investigation in respect to commission of the alleged offence of money laundering and this power has necessarily to be inferred with the help of above Section as Section 65 of the PMLA, 2002 does not prohibit remand of an accused under the said act to ED custody.”
The ED submitted to the Court that Delhi’s excise policy was implemented as a conspiracy to give a 12% profit margin for the wholesalers to certain private companies. However, such a stipulation was not mentioned in the Group of Ministers’ (GoM) minutes of the meeting.
Furthermore, the ED submitted that the conspiracy was coordinated by Vijay Nair, along with other individuals and the South Group, to provide extraordinary profit margins to wholesalers. The ED submitted that Vijay Nair was acting on behalf of Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Manish Sisodia. ED said, “Members of South group further got control of 9 zones therefore making a serious cartel in the excise business in Delhi.”
ED’s counsel, Advocate Zoheb Hossain, argued, “The proceeds of crime is quantified for over Rs. 292 crores. Considering the magnitude of the matter, we need to identify the complete modus operandi. We need to confront other persons who we have summoned. We have issued summons to seven persons. Therefore, we are seeking remand of 10 days.”
However, Manish Sisodia’s counsels, Senior Advocates Dayan Krishnan, Mohit Mathur and Siddharth Agarwal, argued that no amount was traced to him, which formed an essential ingredient of money laundering. Furthermore, the counsels contended that the timing of the arrest is mala fide and is done to keep Manish Sisodia in ‘continued detention.’
On February 26, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested Manish Sisodia for irregularities in Delhi’s now-withdrawn excise policy. CBI’s statement on Manish Sisodia’s arrest stated, “He gave evasive replies and did not cooperate in the investigation despite being confronted with evidence to the contrary. Therefore, he has been arrested.”