Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Liquor scam case: Delhi court extends CBI custody of Manish Sisodia by 2 days, to hear bail plea on March 10

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A local court in Delhi on Saturday extended the remand of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who was arrested last week by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with his alleged involvement in the liquor scam case, by two days.

Special CBI Judge M.K. Nagpal at the Rouse Avenue Court further listed the bail plea of the former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader for hearing on March 10 at 2 pm, while directing the CBI to file a reply in the matter by the next date of hearing. 

The former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister had applied for bail yesterday, contending that keeping him in custody would not serve any ‘fruitful purpose,’ since all the recoveries in the case have already been made. 

The five-day CBI remand of Sisodia expires today.

Sisodia personally addressed the court after his remand was extended and said that CBI was asking him the same questions every day from morning till late in the evening, subjecting him to a sort of ‘mental harassment’. 

He further alleged that the questioning for 8-10 hours daily amounted to third degree torture and claimed that CBI did not have any documentary evidence against him.

Special Judge Nagpal directed the national agency not to ask repeated questions to Sisodia and conduct medical tests of Sisodia at regular intervals.

Representing the national agency, Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Pankaj Gupta sought three more days of Sisodia’s custody, stating that the AAP leader was not cooperating with the probe.

He further said that a lot of time was wasted in the Supreme Court as Sisodia had moved the top court of the country against his arrest. The SPP said it needed three more days to question the accused, adding that some more people need to be examined in the case.

Sisodia was represented by Senior Advocates Dayan Krishnan and Mohit Mathur. Krishnan contended that non-cooperation could not be a ground for extension of remand.

He argued that there was no difference between the circumstances prevalent earlier this week when he was remanded to CBI custody and now. The lawyer further said that the inefficiency of the agency could not be a ground for remand. 

The Court noted the CBI’s submissions that some ‘missing documents’ had to be traced and two names have been given in whose presence the agency has to interrogate Sisodia. 

Krishnan again contended that this could not be a ground for extending custody.

The Special Judge noted that if the argument was that remand was not required, then it should have been challenged before High Court, which the petitioner did not do. 

Krishnan replied that when remand was granted a second time, the test was higher and more scrutiny had to be done.

On February 27, the Rouse Avenue Court had sent Sisodia to five-day CBI custody over his alleged involvement in irregularities related to the now-scrapped Delhi Excise Policy.

Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) Pankaj Gupta had appeared for CBI before the Rouse Avenue Court on February 28. 

He sought custody of Sisodia till March 4, arguing that investigation had revealed that Sisodia verbally directed the Secretary to put a new Cabinet note to bring about the change and variance in the policy. 

Gupta said the Deputy Chief Minister was heading the Group of Ministers constituted by the Cabinet for the Excise Policy. The profit margin was enhanced from five percent to 12 percent. Sisodia could not explain why the changes were made, he added.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had arrested Sisodia in connection with the liquor policy scam on Sunday, after questioning him for eight hours.

CBI said it had arrested Sisodia on the basis of some documents and digital evidence, along with destruction of evidence.

The AAP leader had challenged his arrest by CBI in the Supreme Court, which dismissed his plea on February 28.

The Bench of Chief Justice of India (CJI) D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice P.S. Narasimha told Sisodia that he had alternative remedies available before the High Court, which he should have pursued, instead of directly invoking the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court under Article 32 of the Constitution.

The CJI told Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who appeared for Sisodia, that the petitioner was challenging an FIR, challenging remand and seeking bail, all under Article 32 of the Constitution. 

If it decided to take up this petition, the Apex Court would be asked to interfere in every such case, noted the CJI, adding that the top court of the country could not intervene in this.

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