Delhi High Court denies bail to Manish Sisodia in CBI case

Allegations against Sisodia in the alleged Delhi excise policy scam case are serious, and he may influence witnesses, Delhi High Court says while rejecting his bail application.

THE Delhi High Court today denied bail to former deputy chief minister of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), politician, journalist and former social activist Manish Sisodia in the case registered against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the alleged Delhi excise policy scam, for which he undergone custody for over three months.

The petitioner being an influential person … there is a possibility of witnesses being influenced which cannot be ruled out,” Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma of the high court stated. The court had reserved its verdict on May 11.

It was clarified that while deciding bail the court did not examine the 2021–22 Delhi excise policy in detail, but concluded that “there are serious allegations of misconduct against the petitioner… In the facts and circumstances this court is of the considered view that the petitioner is not entitled to bail.

The case against Sisodia is based on alleged irregularities in the framing and implementation of the now-retracted excise policy. It is claimed that the policy gave certain vendors applying for liquor licences improper financial favours, resulting in losses to the exchequer, and kickbacks were allegedly received in exchange for those favours.

Sisodia was arrested by the CBI on February 26 after an eight-hour long interrogation at the CBI headquarters in Delhi.

Sisodia had immediately moved the Supreme Court for quashing of the first information report filed against him by the CBI or, in the alternative, ordering his release from the CBI’s custody. The Supreme Court, though, had refused to entertain his petition, asking him to exhaust other available remedies by moving lower courts first.

On April 25, the CBI filed a supplementary chargesheet in the matter, naming Sisodia as an accused for the first time in a chargesheet. Sisodia and three others were charged under Sections 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, and Sections 7 (offence relating to public servant being bribed), 7A (taking undue advantage to influence public servant by corrupt or illegal means or by exercise of personal influence), 8 (offence relating to bribing of a public servant) and 12 (punishment for abetment of offences) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Before that, on March 31, a special court under the Prevention of Corruption Act in Delhi had rejected Sisodia’s bail plea in the CBI case on the ground that releasing him at that stage could hamper the ongoing investigation, though he was not deemed a flight risk.

Judge M.K. Nagpal had observed in his order that “this court was of the prima facie view that the possibility of destruction of or tampering with the evidence by him could not be ruled out.”

The possibility of evidence tampering by Sisodia was rooted in the allegation levelled against him of not producing three of four mobile phones he is alleged to have possessed “as the same were expected to contain some vital pieces of evidence … regarding his involvement therein”.

On April 28, Sisodia was denied bail in a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) by the same Prevention of Corruption Act special court. The Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) of the ED in that case is based on the CBI case registered against Sisodia.

[T]he prosecution has … been able to show a genuine and prima facie case for involvement of the applicant in commission of the alleged offence of money laundering,” judge Nagpal had held, disposing of Sisodia’s plea for regular bail in the case of alleged money laundering under Section 3 of the PMLA.

On the material placed by the ED on record, the court had said, “[I]t clearly emerges from the evidence placed before the court that the applicant herein was connected with the generation of proceeds of crime of around ₹100 crore in the form of advance kickbacks…

According to the court, the said amount was used for extending undue pecuniary benefits to conspirators and members of the liquor cartel, which was permitted to be formed by manipulation of provisions of the Delhi excise policy and by insertion of favourable clauses for the benefit of conspirators.

The court also noted that some evidence is also “alleged to have surfaced during investigation” to show that some part of the alleged kickback received was spent on the Aam Aadmi Party’s election campaign for the Goa Assembly elections in 2022, and some fake invoices are alleged to have been created as a cover up for the cash amounts transferred through hawala channels.

Despite two cases running parallelly against Sisodia, the court had held that it would not amount to a violation of the principle of double jeopardy encapsulated in Article 20(2) (Protection in respect of conviction for offences) of the Constitution and Section 26 (provision as to offences punishable under two or more enactments) of the General Clauses Act.

The special court was in agreement with the ED’s submission that “an accused can be prosecuted on similar facts in two different cases and for two different offences if the ingredients of the offences of these two cases, as disclosed by the facts and circumstances alleged against him, are different.”

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