The Delhi High Court on Thursday advanced the hearing on the bail plea of Vijay Nair, businessman and Aam Aadmi Party’s communication in-charge arrested in a money laundering case related to the alleged Delhi excise policy scam, but remarked that it amounted to putting pressure on the court.
While the matter was earlier posted for further hearing on May 19, the high court advanced the date to May 9.
The early hearing application came before the high court after the Supreme Court granted liberty to Mr Nair to approach the high court requesting for early listing of his bail plea in the money laundering case stemming from the alleged Delhi excise policy scam.
Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma said the counsel should be fair to the court and should see that 100 cases are being listed on the board for hearing on a daily basis.
“I will prepone the date but you should be fair to the court. You see the board. And this is like putting pressure on the court. This is annoying the court,” the judge told Mr Nair’s lawyer.
However, senior advocate Manish Vashisht, appearing for Vijay Nair, urged the court not to keep this impression in mind that they were trying to put any kind of pressure on the court.
The judge said, “That impression is certainly there and will remain. There are so many people lodged in jail. You want a special treatment to be given. You can afford to go to the Supreme Court so you are going.” The high court had on April 12 sought the response of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Mr Nair’s plea seeking bail and had posted the matter for further hearing on May 19.
However, Vijay Nair approached the top court urging for advancement of the date of hearing in the high court. The top court had refused to entertain it at this stage.
Mr Nair has said he was only the media and communications in charge of AAP and was not involved in the drafting, framing or implementation of the excise policy in any manner and that he was being “victimised” for his political affiliation.
His counsel had earlier told the top court that Vijay Nair was granted bail on November 14 last year in connection with a corruption case related to the alleged scam being probed by the CBI.
He had said that on February 16 this year the trial court had rejected Vijay Nair’s plea seeking bail in the money laundering case after which he had approached the high court.
The trial court had refused to grant bail to Vijay Nair and four other accused– Sameer Mahendru, Sharath Reddy, Abhishek Boinpally and Benoy Babu– on February 16 while noting further investigation was still pending and it was not possible to hold that they would make no attempt to tamper with the evidence if released.
In his bail plea before the high court, Mr Nair has said the trial court “wrongfully and illegally” refused to grant him relief and claimed the allegations against him are wrong, false and without any basis.
He has asserted that his arrest on November 13 last year was completely illegal and “appears to be motivated by extraneous considerations” given that the special court was expected to pronounce orders on his bail plea in the corruption case being probed by the CBI.
“Petitioner is being victimised on account of his political affiliation and there is no merit whatsoever in the FIR or ostensibly the ECIR (ED’s version of FIR) being investigated by the Respondent… The Petitioner is liable to be enlarged on bail and his constitutionally protected freedom of liberty be protected by this court,” the plea has stated.
The money laundering case has arisen from a CBI FIR which was lodged after the Delhi Lieutenant Governor recommended a CBI probe into the new excise policy in 2021 which was later scrapped.
The CBI has alleged that Vijay 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”.
It 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.
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 former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, former excise commissioner Arva Gopi Krishna, ex-deputy commissioner in the excise department Anand Tiwari and former assistant commissioner Pankaj Bhatnagar.
According to the CBI and ED, 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 2022 amid allegations of corruption.