Citing Supreme Court judgment on the reasonableness of apprehension, the Delhi High Court Saturday dismissed AAP leader Satyendar Jain’s plea that challenged a Delhi court order allowing the transfer of hearing in the money laundering case against him from one judge to another.
A single-judge bench of Justice Yogesh Khanna Saturday held that “the question is not of an integrity or uprightness of the judge; or of the authorities over which the petitioner once had jurisdiction”, but as noted by the principal district and sessions judge in the impugned order, “is of an ‘apprehension in the mind of a party’.”
The court further observed that such an apprehension “is to be seen from the angle of a party and not of a judge”, referring to a 1987 judgment of the Supreme Court in Ranjit Thakur v Union of India. The apex court had held that as to the tests of the likelihood of bias, what is relevant is the reasonableness of the apprehension in the mind of the party.
“The argument to the contrary is rather not relevant. The facts show the department did not merely harbour such apprehension but rather had acted upon it by rushing to this court… hence it cannot be said to be flimsy or not reasonable,” Justice Khanna observed.
The High Court observed that the question is not if there was any alleged violation of the Delhi Jail Manual and Rules, but of Jain’s alleged stature/influence to “allegedly seek benefit under such rules”.
On September 23, Principal District and Sessions Judge (Rouse Avenue Courts) Vinay Kumar Gupta had allowed the Enforcement Directorate’s transfer petition in the case. The case was transferred from the court of Special Judge Geetanjli Goel to that of Special Judge Vikas Dhull.
The ED argued before the HC that it had requested the special judge to get Jain medically assessed from an independent hospital or from AIIMS or Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital. However, the court preferred to wait for LNJP hospital’s report, to which the agency objected. The ED had moved the HC, which on July 28 had directed the special judge not to consider LNJP’s medical report till the next date of hearing.s
Dismissing Jain’s petition, the court held that all these facts were considered by the principal district and sessions judge, and that it cannot be said the transfer order suffers from any “illegality or need any interference”.
Senior counsel appearing for Jain had argued that the impugned order is “bad in law” and needs to be set aside as, to date, not even a single order has been passed in favour of Jain. “It is argued it could not have been done at the mere asking of an investigating agency since it was incumbent upon the court to examine the apprehension expressed qua conduct of trial is reasonable and such powers need to be exercised in exceptional circumstances,” the court observed. They had argued that such apprehension was never expressed at an initial stage of the hearing either during “pendency of the interim bail application” or when the ED filed its reply to the regular bail application, and it is not known what transpired within two days thereafter that the respondent moved an application for transfer of the case. Senior advocates Kapil Sibal and Rahul Mehra appeared for Jain before the HC.
Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for ED, referred to SC judgments that held that a person seeking transfer is not required to “demonstrate the justice will inevitably fail and he needs to only explain the circumstances from which it can be inferred that he entertains an apprehension and it is reasonable in the circumstances alleged”.