A Delhi court Friday transferred a money laundering case against Aam Aadmi Party leader Satyendar Jain to a new judge, observing that even though the judge hearing the case was an upright officer, “circumstances taken together are sufficient to raise a reasonable apprehension in the mind” of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Principal District and Sessions Judge Vinay Kumar Gupta allowed the ED plea to transfer the case from the court of Special Judge Geetanjli Goel to Special Judge Vikas Dhull. Jain, meanwhile, moved the Delhi High Court challenging the order. On Friday afternoon, senior advocate Rahul Mehra, appearing for Jain, mentioned the matter before Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad for urgent listing.
Submitting that there is an urgency in the matter as the case before the Special Judge will be heard on a day-to-day basis, Mehra urged that the matter be listed on Monday, which the HC allowed.
DSJ Gupta, while transferring the petition, observed that the special judge was a “very upright officer, however, all circumstances taken together are sufficient to raise a reasonable apprehension in the mind of the petitioner as a common man, not of any actual bias but of a probable bias”.
The court said that a “holistic picture is to be seen and cumulative effect to the facts and circumstances is to be considered as against any single fact/circumstances and that being so it cannot be said that the petitioner is showing any hypersensitivity to the issue by seeking a transfer of the case”. The court also agreed with ED’s submissions that Jain enjoyed the status of a minister and said that just because he did not hold any portfolio, does not mean he is no longer a minister.
The ED on Thursday told the court the judge did not consider that “he (Jain) can manage hospitals and jails as he held those portfolios as a minister”. This was met with strong opposition by Jain’s lawyers, who questioned where the country was headed if the agency couldn’t trust its doctors and judges.
The ED had apprised the court that Jain had earlier applied for medical bail and got himself admitted to LNJP Hospital. He told the court that the agency had objected to any medical reports from the hospital considering that he was the minister of health and “the hospital was under his control and things can be managed”.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, who appeared on behalf of ED, had argued that Special Judge Goel “calls for the report of the very hospital which we had an objection for”.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who appeared on behalf of Jain, had argued that the ED application was a mala fide plea. He said that no apprehension was put forth by ED before September 15 when the matter was being heard in its final stages.
“Orally you are attributing something to the judge. And the judge is entitled to say you have not answered the question. Is the judge supposed to be a silent spectator? How is this a relevant fact? Judge also agreed when issues were controverted during submissions. Is this a ground for transfer?” Sibal had argued.
He added, “All this happened much prior. What is the bias that the judge may grant regular bail? Because judge didn’t allow accused to be shifted to AIIMS or Safdarjung? This is a malafide application, to derail trial, to prolong my custody, to ensure their whims and fancies are agreed to, and send a message to the judiciary that if you don’t agree to us, this is what will happen.”
ED had arrested Jain in a case based on a CBI FIR lodged against him in 2017 under the Prevention of Corruption Act. Jain was accused of having laundered money through four companies allegedly linked to him.
In the past few hearings in the bail proceedings, Special Judge Goel had pulled up the agency over its probe in the case.