A division bench of the Supreme Court asked Sisodia to instead move the Delhi High Court or the CBI Special Court in Delhi which had ordered his remand yesterday.
THE Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to entertain Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia’s petition for quashing of the First Information Report (FIR), or in the alternative, order his release from the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) custody, in the alleged Delhi excise policy scam.
A bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Dr. DY Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha asked Sisodia to instead move the Delhi High Court or the CBI Special Court in Delhi which had yesterday ordered his five-day remand. The petition was dismissed as withdrawn.
The division bench took exception to the fact that Sisodia had approached the Supreme Court directly under Article 32 of the Constitution, without exhausting the other legal remedies available to him. “It will set a very wrong precedent. (Just because) an incident occurs in Delhi, that does not mean we are approached,” Justice Narasimha observed.
A plea for quashing of an FIR is typically filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code which lays down as to when the inherent powers of a high court may be exercised; namely, to give effect to any order under the code, to prevent abuse of the process of any court and to secure the ends of justice.
Senior advocate Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Sisodia, cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in Vinod Dua versus Union of India (2021) to argue that the Supreme Court, in the past, has quashed an FIR on a petition filed under Article 32.
The court in Vinod Dua had quashed the sedition case filed against journalist Vinod Dua by the Himachal Pradesh police in connection with a Youtube show in 2020 criticising the Union government’s implementation of the COVID-19-induced national lockdown.
The Supreme Court, however, refused to consider its judgments in the cases of Dua or news anchor and journalist Arnab R. Goswami as precedents, stating that rulings in those cases were delivered in contexts different from the present case.
On the CJI’s enquiry about the charges against Sisodia, Dr. Singhvi replied that Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 (PCA) had been invoked against his client. Dr. Singhvi added that no money had been recovered from Sisodia or alleged to have been received by him personally.
Section 7 of the PCA relates to public servants taking gratification other than legal remuneration in respect of an official act, and attracts an imprisonment of a term between six months and five years and a fine.
At a previous instance in the hearing, Dr. Singhvi had argued that since the charges against Sisodia do not attract an imprisonment of more than seven years as penalty, his arrest violated the directions delivered by the Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar versus State of Bihar (2014).
The Supreme Court in Arnesh Kumar had ruled, “A person accused of an offence punishable with imprisonment for a term which may be less than seven years or which may extend to seven years with or without fine, cannot be arrested by the police officer only on its satisfaction that such person had committed the offence punishable as aforesaid.”
The court had further held that a police officer, before arresting an accused, must be satisfied that such arrest is necessary “to prevent such person from committing any further offence, or for proper investigation of the case; or to prevent the accused from causing the evidence of the offence to disappear; or tampering with such evidence in any manner…”
Dr. Singhvi pointed out that Sisodia has been summoned twice by the CBI in the last eight months and he presented himself for questioning on those occasions. He added that Sisodia is neither a flight risk, nor has there been a concern expressed by the CBI regarding tampering of evidence by him.
Dr. Singhvi contended further that the ground for arrest here was that Sisodia had not answered the CBI’s questions to their satisfaction. “Can you arrest someone just because of non-cooperation?“, he asked.
Nonetheless, the Supreme Court refused to accept Sisodia’s submissions for relief, observing that he must exhaust the alternative remedies available to him first. Shortly after the conclusion of the hearing on Tuesday afternoon, he resigned from the cabinet of the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.
Meanwhile, a Delhi court on Tuesday granted regular bail to five of the accused in the alleged Delhi excise policy scam, which included two former excise department officials. They had been granted interim bail on January 3.
Sisodia is expected to move the Delhi High Court tomorrow for his release.