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Third bench recuses from hearing ‘money laundering’ case in 10 days

It was next listed before the division bench of Justices S K Mittal and Deepak Sibal on January 30.

It has been 10 days since advocate Mukesh Mittal’s clerk Ajay Singh had approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court, seeking quashing of an Enforcement Case Information Report against him under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, but no court has, so far, agreed to hear his petition.

On Friday, a third division bench, comprising Justices Hemant Gupta and Hari Pal Verma, recused itself and ordered, “List before some other bench of which one of us (Hemant Gupta J.) is not a member after obtaining appropriate orders from Hon’ble The Acting Chief Justice.”

On January 28, the division bench of Justices Rajive Bhalla and B S Walia had first recused from hearing the case. It was next listed before the division bench of Justices S K Mittal and Deepak Sibal on January 30, but this bench too refused to hear the case.

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While investigating the case, the Enforcement Directorate had last month conducted raids at the residence of advocate Mukesh Mittal and his associates, including Ajay Singh, and had thereafter questioned them allegedly about running some shell companies.

Ajay Singh had approached the high court seeking quashing of the ECIR on the grounds that the Enforcement Directorate did not have the jurisdiction either to register the ECIR or to commence further probe.

Ajay Singh, who has been working with advocate Mukesh Mittal since 2006, reasoned that the offence under the PMLA had ceased to be cognisable in view of an amendment in 2005, necessitating the sanction/order from the jurisdictional magistrate in terms of Section 155(2) of the CrPC before embarking upon any lawful investigation.

He further submitted that according to Section 157 of the CrPC, pursuant to the registration of a case involving a cognisable offence under Section 154 of the CrPC, it was imperative for the officer concerned to forthwith send a report to the competent magistrate which was not done in this case.

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The petitioner said that he was a director in some private limited companies, but had never withdrawn or deposited any amount in any of these companies. He had applied for anticipatory bail in the case and the application was pending before a Chandigarh court.

Ajay Singh said that though he was not, in any way, related with the FIR registered by the Chandigarh Police on July 22, 2009, in a dispute over property owned by NRI Tara Singh, or the ECIR registered by the ED taking cognisance of the FIR, he was summoned by the ED a number of times for interrogation.

First published on: 07-02-2015 at 03:50 IST
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