New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday dismissed the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) plea challenging the Delhi high court order granting bail to Karnataka Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar in a money laundering case.
A bench comprising justices R.F. Nariman and S. Ravindra Bhat rejected the request of solicitor general Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the ED, and said the issue should be heard as it raises an important legal question.
The CBI’s petition appealing the Delhi high court’s decision referred to the Karnataka Congress leader as former “Union finance minister” and “home minister”, positions he never held. Senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and A.M. Singhvi, appearing for Shivakumar, said the ED’s plea should be dismissed because it is “a cut and paste job and they (ED) have referred to facts of some other case in the petition”.
According to reports, Justice Nariman told solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing on behalf of the ED that its officers cannot “play around with the top court’s judgments”, and asked him to read his dissenting view in the Sabarimala case, delivered on Thursday.
The judge took strong exception to ED invoking section 45(1) as a ground to cancel Shivakumar’s bail. The provision imposes stringent conditions for release on bail of an accused even for offences which are not related to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
“For your edification and edification of government …. You must read the dissenting verdict. Tell the officials that our judgments are not to be played with,” Justice Nariman told Mehta, according to Hindustan Times.
The high court had on October 23 granted bail to Shivakumar, saying he cannot tamper with evidence or influence witnesses and no material has been shown to indicate that he was a flight risk.
Shivakumar, a seven-time MLA in Karnataka, was booked along with an employee at the Karnataka Bhavan in Delhi and others for alleged offences under the PMLA.
The ED had arrested Shivakumar on September 3.
The case was based on a chargesheet filed by the income tax department against them last year before a special court in Bengaluru on charges of alleged tax evasion and ‘hawala’ transactions worth crores of rupees.
The IT department has accused Shivakumar and his alleged associate S.K. Sharma of indulging in transactions involving huge amounts of unaccounted money on a regular basis through ‘hawala’ channels with the help of three other accused.
During the hearing on Friday, Mehta told the apex court that the appeal should be heard as it raises a legal question as to whether the Indian Penal Code’s section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) could be a “stand alone” offence.
Advocate Singhvi referred to the high court order and said it has been held that Shivakumar is neither a flight risk nor can he tamper with any evidence.
The solicitor general countered the arguments of Shivakumar’s counsels and said, “I fail to understand that issuance of notice is being opposed on question of law”.
The bench told Mehta, “Do not invite us to say something. It is not the way you will deal with citizens rights”.
Rohatgi then referred to section 45 (1) of the PMLA, which was struck down in 2017 by the apex court which had said it was “manifestly arbitrary” and “unconstitutional”.
Section 45(1) of the PMLA, which was struck down, imposed stringent conditions for securing bail of a person accused in offence of money laundering.