Why wasn’t AAP arraigned in case,  SC asks ED during Sisodia hearing

AAP leader’s counsel Abhishek Singhvi submits that he satisfies all conditions for grant of bail since he is not a flight risk and will not threaten any witnesses
FILE - Supreme Court of India. (Photo | PTI)
FILE - Supreme Court of India. (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday asked the Enforcement Directorate (ED) why the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) party or its office bearers have not been made an accused in the ED case in the alleged excise scam if it is alleged to be the beneficiary of the money laundering.

“A political party is said to be the beneficiary of this, but they are not an accused or impleaded. How do you answer that?” a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti remarked during the hearing of hearing of the bail plea of jailed AAP leader Manish Sisodia.

Sisodia, who has been behind bars for over seven months in the corruption case related to the now-scrapped excise policy of the national capital, was initially arrested by the CBI on February 26 and later arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 9 in Tihar Jail in a related case of money laundering.  

During the hearing, the ED had claimed that the AAP used Rs 100 crore received as kickbacks from various stakeholders for its campaign in the 2022 Goa assembly elections. Appearing for Sisodia, senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi submitted before the court that Sisodia satisfies all conditions for grant of bail since he is not a flight risk and will not threaten any witnesses.

“No flight risk, that is out of the question. No chance of threatening witnesses. Please see the triple test in Chidambaram,” he argued. Singhvi argued that there is no money trail leading to his client.“The star witness even does not say that Sisodia received any kickbacks,” Singhvi submitted in the hours-long lengthy hearing.

The counsel further argued that the excise policy was not the decision of an individual minister but an institutional decision spread over a period of time.“The whole thing of excise policy was a multilateral institutional decision spread over a period of time,” Singhvi submitted. It was also argued that the policy in question would have boosted the revenue of the city government.

“Earlier, because of cartelisation they were getting 65 per cent profit. We offer world-class experience with CCTV and testing and it leads to huge revenues. We did give a better deal to them but to increase revenue and we increased license prices,” he argued.

He further said the L-G had authorised the policy.“There was open consultation on the website etc. Nobody starts any enquiry (then) nothing. On May 23, 2022 a new L-G is appointed. New L-G in July 2022 (writes) letter alleging irregularities. We are one year down. The matter referred to CBI. 17th August CBI FIR (is lodged), 22nd August the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) is registered. Arrested for close to 8 months, no money trail found,” Singhvi said.

The hearing will continue on Thursday. Sisodia moved the Supreme Court challenging a Delhi High Court order denying him bail in the cases registered against him by the CBI and the ED. He along with Nair, Boinpally, and Babu were later arrayed as the accused persons in the ED case.

It is alleged that officials of the Delhi government had connived to grant liquor licenses to certain traders in exchange for bribes. According to the Central agencies’ case, the new liquor policy floated by AAP government was tweaked and the profit margins changed to benefit certain traders.

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