Another division bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on Tuesday recused itself from hearing a public interest litigation seeking a time-bound probe by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) in Chandigarh alleged multi-crore money-laundering racket under the High Court’s supervision.
There are allegations against Justice Hemant Gupta, advocate Mukesh Mittal, his brother and Assistant Solicitor General (ASJ) of India Chetan Mittal, their family members and associates.
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After the division bench comprising Justices S K Mittal and Mahavir Singh Chauhan had recused from hearing the case on August 21, it came up for hearing after a period of 24 days before the division bench comprising Justices SS Saron and Rekha Mittal.
Petitioners’ counsel Sachit Kumar Sahajpal argued on Tuesday, “There are allegations in the case against high and mighty, and this case needs to be probed under high court’s supervision”. On this, Justice Saron said, “You have to first satisfy us about your locus standi and credentials. Have you gone through High Court rules?” To this, Sahajpal replied, “I have gone through the High Court rules. I have a strong case and I’ll certainly satisfy this court.”
But thereafter the court recused from hearing the case and sent it back to acting Chief Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar for placing it before a bench of which Justice Rekha Mittal is not a member.
Petitioners Jaskaran Grewal and Gurcharan Singh of Punjab have alleged that the “influence of Politico-Police-Advocates-Judge nexus” has worked on the powers to get ED’s Assistant Legal Advisor, Suresh Kumar Batra, transferred to Bengaluru and in the larger pubic interest his transfer should be stayed. It has been submitted that Batra was taking care of two “high profile and sensitive cases” – muti-crore Punjab drug racket case and Chandigarh money laundering case – and has been transferred to Bengaluru on July 20.
“It is not understandable as to why pivotal officers are transferred at the most crucial stage of investigation,” the petition mentions. The petitioners have also informed the court that Punjab industries and commerce minister Madan Mohan Mittal is the uncle of advocates Mukesh Mittal and Chetan Mittal.
The petition further reads, “from the aforementioned facts it is apparent that since the case involves highly influential people like Hon’ble Mr. Hemant Gupta and Chetan Mittal ASJ (ED’s Counsel), there is every possibility of influencing and interference in fair investigation in the ECIR(Enforcement Case Information Report). Rather, the interference has already been pointed out by the Assistant Director ED Chandigarh Gopesh Byadwal.”
This is the same case wherein Byadwal had reported of having received a call from Justice Hemant Gupta to meet him to discuss the case. The Indian Express had reported on May 25 that as per ED’s official communication, Byadwal, had received a call from Justice Gupta on March 16 which was made from the mobile of his secretary Dalbir Singh. The judge had asked the ED officer about the ongoing inquiries into the company, RMC Printers Pvt Ltd, wherein Justice Gupta’s wife, Alka Gupta, was a director until June 27, 2009.
The petitioners have also submitted persons being investigated in ED’s cases are “influential people with links in the ruling party” and “that being an accused of the ED, it is strange to know that Chetan Mittal is appearing on behalf of the ED in the very important drugs related case in which, Niranjan Singh has been transferred”.