The vacation bench of the Supreme Court of Justices J.K. Maheshwari and P.S. Narasimha on Friday, May 26, granted interim bail to former Delhi minister Satyender Kumar Jain on medical grounds, despite vehement opposition from the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against it.
Jain has been under judicial custody since May 2022 in a money laundering case, and was admitted to a hospital on Thursday.
He appealed before the Supreme Court against the denial of bail by the Delhi high court on April 6.
Referring to the history of the case, additional solicitor general S.V. Raju, who represented the ED, told the bench Jain had influence over the Delhi hospitals, because he was the health minister at the time of his arrest and prosecution in the money laundering case. He, therefore, insisted on the bench getting an independent evaluation of his health condition, before passing any order on his bail application. “He is already in hospital,” he told the bench.
Senior counsel Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that Jain is suffering from muscular atrophy and had lost 35 kg during his incarceration. As he showed no relief in pain due to conservative treatment, he has a right to a private hospital, he said.
Raju, however, contended that as a Jain, he believed in fasting, and therefore, it is not surprising that his weight has reduced during the period. He asked the bench to defer its order for four days.
The bench, however, decided to release him on interim bail, to enable him to get treatment at a private hospital of his choice. “He shall be released on interim bail on medical grounds on conditions to be imposed by trial court,” the order, issued by the bench reads.
The order directed Jain not to influence or meet with any of the witnesses, or leave the area of the city without the leave of the court. The bench directed that Jain’s treatment during the interim bail should be produced before the court, and that the interim bail should be in operation till July 11. On the insistence of Raju, the bench added that Jain should not hold press conferences or give interviews to the media on any issue.
When Raju requested the bench to direct an independent evaluation of his health condition by AIIMS, New Delhi, the bench said it would do so later, after perusing the reports.
On April 6, Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma of the Delhi high court declined to grant bail to Jain and his co-accused in the case because they failed to meet the twin conditions provided under Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), as well as conditions laid down under Section 439 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC).
The twin conditions under Section 45 of the PMLA provide that bail can be granted only if (i) the public prosecutor has been given an opportunity to oppose the application; (ii) the court is satisfied that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the accused is not guilty of such offence; and (iii) the accused is not likely to commit any offence while on bail.
Section 45 (ii) of PMLA specifically provides that the limitation on granting of bail in sub-section (i) is in addition to the limitations under the CrPC or any other law for the time being in force on the grant of bail.
The ED has alleged a conspiracy between Satyendar Kumar Jain and co-accused Vaibhav Jain and Ankush Jain. Generally in cases of criminal conspiracy, which are hatched in secrecy and executed in dark, it is a herculean task to find the direct evidence of such offence, the HC had held.
In particular, where there is a transaction of cash, the high court considered that it is near impossible to get direct evidence. In such cases, the court has to resort back to see the past trend and attendant circumstances of the case, and this is the case where the money has been round-tripped through shell companies, the high court had found prima facie.