The Supreme Court on Monday rejected former Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia’s bail plea in the Delhi excise scam matter, and directed the trial in the cases probed against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) be completed within the next 8 months.
A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti while pronouncing a brief order, said, “We have dealt with certain aspects which are doubtful. But one aspect, with regard to transfer of ₹338 crore, is tentatively established. Therefore we have dismissed the bail application.”
The court dismissed Sisodia’s bail pleas in both the cases and directed the trial to be completed within 6-8 months. “If within 3 months, the trial proceeds slowly or sloppily, the petitioner shall be entitled to move for bail,” the bench said.
In cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), provision of bail is provided under Section 45 where the court must fulfill the twin-condition test. This test requires the court granting bail after being satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused is not guilty of such offence and that he is not likely to commit any offence during the bail period.
Sisodia was accused of making changes in the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy of 2021 to benefit a group of liquor dealers from the south, referred to as the South Group, causing wrongful loss to the exchequer by increasing profit margin under the new regime.
The CBI has already filed chargesheets in connection with the crime registered under the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act against the senior Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader while the ED claimed that ₹100 crore kickback was paid by the beneficiary companies, and Sisodia helped them generate proceeds of crime by raising the profit margin from the existing 5% to 12% under the new policy.
The transfer of amount of ₹338 crore was part of the ED complaint and it is to be seen how the court established this fact against Sisodia.
Sisodia argued that the excise policy was formulated and finalised in different layers, involving officers in the government, group of ministers, Cabinet, and the then Lieutenant Governor. He was arrested on February 26 as the CBI began its probe into the alleged irregularities in the excise policy based on a complaint by current Delhi L-G VK Saxena in July 2022.
The AAP leader, however, claimed that there was no evidence of money trail against him. Sisodia had approached the top court against separate orders passed by the Delhi high court denying him bail. On May 30, he was denied bail in the CBI case followed by a similar order on July 3 in the ED case. The HC noted the allegations as serious and that the petitioner held a powerful position of being the deputy CM.
Besides Sisodia, AAP MP Sanjay Singh has been arrested in connection with the alleged kickbacks after three of the accused in the case turned approvers to support the ED case. During the hearing, the court enquired if the ED sought to proceed against AAP as well.
On October 17, when the top court reserved orders, ASG Raju told the court that the ED is contemplating to make the Aam Aadmi Party as an accused in the case, under Section 70 of PMLA, which deals with offences by a company. Here, company includes a firm or an association of persons.