Excise policy: Delhi HC asks bizmen Nair, Boinpally to respond to CBI's pleas challenging bail order
New Delhi, Nov 24 (PTI) The Delhi High Court sought the responses of businessmen Vijay Nair and Abhishek Boinpally on Thursday on the CBI's pleas challenging the bail granted to them in a corruption case related to the now-scrapped Excise Policy 2021-22 for the national capital.
Justice Yogesh Khanna issued notices to Nair and Boinpally, asking them to file their replies to the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) petitions, and listed the matter for further hearing on December 5.
The court also asked them to file their replies to the CBI's application seeking to stay the trial court's bail order.
Nair, the Aam Aadmi Party's (AAP) communication in-charge, and Boinpally, however, are still in custody as they were arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money-laundering case related to the excise policy.
During the hearing, the judge said, "They are already in custody (in the ED case). Why do you want a stay on that order? What is the hurry? Let them file a reply, then we will see" and deferred the hearing on the CBI's stay application.
Challenging the bail order, CBI's counsel Nikhil Goel contended that every reasoning given by the trial court judge was "perverse".
Goel also informed the court that the statutory time period of 60 days from the date of the first arrest for filing a chargesheet will expire on Friday, when the agency will file the document.
"Regarding these two respondents (Nair and Boinpally), we will be filing the chargesheet by tomorrow. We will not breach the 60-day period," he said.
Representing Nair in the matter, senior advocate Rebecca John said the whole jurisprudence has changed in the country and now, it is jail and not bail.
She said the moment Nair got bail in the CBI case, he was arrested by the ED in the money-laundering case and added, "This is how the agencies work. The agencies act in tandem." John vehemently opposed each and every ground taken by the CBI to urge the court to set aside the trial court's order granting bail to Nair.
She said her client would file his reply to the CBI's petition.
The CBI's lawyer contended that a huge amount of money was brought to Delhi at the instance of Nair and while Rs 30 crore were received here, it was promised that an amount of Rs 100 to 150 crore would be brought to the capital.
"We have to investigate what had to be done with that cash. We have to see what the person who paid that cash would have gained from it," he said, adding that the promises allegedly made by Nair were included in the actual excise policy.
The CBI counsel further said, "This receiving of cash, influencing policy, influencing public servants and promises to receive more cash put us in a very crucial stage." In its petition, the CBI said, "By way of the impugned order, the special judge has not only granted concession of bail to the respondent accused in an extremely serious and wide-ranging economic offence, but this discretion has been exercised at a very crucial stage of investigation." It said this is a case of conspiracy sought to be carried out in an extremely convoluted manner with a clear purpose of making an attempt that the investigation, if any, does not reach the real culprits.
The CBI said it was asked to inquire into a report submitted by the Delhi chief secretary and when it commenced its probe, it unearthed the conspiracy led by Nair, who was allegedly collecting money from private liquor wholesalers in lieu of getting changes favourable for them effected in the excise policy.
While granting them bail, the trial court had said since the maximum punishment for the offence alleged against Nair and Boinpally is only seven years in jail, it cannot be considered severe enough to deny them the relief.
The trial court, in its November 14 order granting them bail, had noted that the corruption case was based on an FIR lodged by the CBI, which does not say that Nair and Boinpally committed any substantive offences, but are only alleged to be part of a criminal conspiracy.
An FIR was lodged in the matter after Delhi Lieutenant Governor V K Saxena recommended a CBI probe.
The CBI has alleged that Nair was involved in meeting the other co-accused and liquor manufacturers as well as distributors at various hotels in Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi for arranging "ill-gotten money through hawala operators".
The probe agency has also claimed that Boinpally was part of the meetings and involved in the conspiracy to launder money along with another accused, liquor businessman Sameer Mahendru, who is currently lodged in the Tihar jail.
In the money-laundering case, the ED had raided nearly three dozen locations in Delhi and Punjab following the arrest of Mahendru, the managing director of liquor distributor Indospirit Group, which is based in Delhi's Jor Bagh.
The other accused in the case are Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, former excise commissioner Arva Gopi Krishna, former deputy commissioner in the excise department Anand Tiwari and former assistant commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar.
According to the two central agencies, irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy and undue favours were extended to the licence holders.
The Delhi government had implemented the excise policy on November 17, 2021, but scrapped it at the end of September this year amid allegations of corruption. PTI SKV RC