A Punjab and Haryana High Court division bench Wednesday recused from hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking time-bound probe by the Directorate of Enforcement (ED) into the alleged multi-crore money laundering racket under the High Court’s supervision.
The decision was taken by the division bench comprising Justices S S Saron and Sneh Prashar after keeping its judgment reserved in the case for over two months. The court has now referred the petition to Acting Chief Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar for putting it before some other division bench.
There are allegations in the money laundering case against Chandigarh advocate Mukesh Mittal, his brother and Assistant Solicitor General of India Chetan Mittal, Justice Hemant Gupta (sitting High Court judge), their family members and associates.
The division bench had reserved judgment in the case on October 12 on the ground whether notice should be issued in the petition to the respondents, mainly ED authorities. The division bench chose to recuse after the petitioners in the case filed an application seeking permission to withdraw their petition alleging no decision by the court on their petition since August. Petitioners Jaskaran Grewal and Gurcharan Singh of Punjab have submitted that they have become “hopeless” and “have lost faith in the Hon’ble High Court to give any justice”.
The petition was filed in the High Court on August 20 and thereafter two judges (Justices S K Mittal and Rekha Mittal) had recused from hearing the case.
It is the same money laundering case in which the division bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Shiavax Jal Vazifdar had on Tuesday dismissed three petitions filed by Ajay Singh, city advocate Mukesh Mittal’s clerk and two other associates, challenging the case registered by the ED, Chandigarh branch. Judgments in these petitions were also reserved on October 16.
Petitioners Jaskaran Grewal and Gurcharan Singh had alleged that there was “lawyer – judge nexus” in the case, which influenced the ED investigation.
The ED had registered an information report in the case on March 26, 2013, under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002. On January 13 this year, it conducted searches on six premises including that of advocate Mukesh Mittal and his associates resulting in seizure of “highly incriminating documents” relating to several shell companies. The documents included 214 blank signed cheques, and records of several shell companies with no business activities and heavy financial transactions.
The petitioners had mentioned in their fresh application filed on December 15, “Ever since the Civil Writ Petition No. 17460 of 2015 had been filed by the petitioners 19th of August, no proceeding has been held in the case and order has been reserved on the point as to whether notice should be issued in a public interest writ petition are (sic) not? In the given circumstances the petitioners have become hopeless about not only the future of the Civil Writ Petition but also have lost faith in the Hon’ble High Court to give any justice in the Civil Writ Petition No. 17640 filed in public interest.”
The application further reads, “If required the petitioners shall invoke the jurisdiction of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India to protect public interest involved in the partial and tardy investigation under the influence of powerful people by the Enforcement Directorate in No. ECIR/CDZO/05/2013 Chandigarh zonal office.”