In his 41-page verdict on November 15, Justice Suresh Kumar Kait of the high court reproduced some paragraphs from a 2017 Supreme Court order rejecting bail to Delhi-based lawyer Rohit Tandon in a money-laundering case.
The judge also referred to a previous 2017 order of the high court in the case of Rohit Tandon versus Enforcement Directorate in which it was observed that “there is a provision of trial by a special courts in case of ‘schedule offences’ under PMLA. Possibility of joint trial would arise under Section 44 of PMLA only when charge-sheet is filed upon completion of investigation and the case is committed to the Special Court.
“Section 44 does not talk of Joint investigation or joint trial. It makes it mandatory that the offence punishable under Section 4 of the Act and any scheduled offence connected to the offence under that section shall be triable only by Special Court constituted for the area in which the offence has been committed.”
The high court, in its November 15 order dismissing bail plea of Chidambaram, mentioned the facts of Tandon’s case that “it is alleged that during the period from November 15, 2016 to November 19, 2016 huge cash to the tune of Rs. 31.75 crores was deposited in eight bank accounts in Kotak Mahindra Bank in the accounts of ‘group of companies’.”
The order says the prosecution in that case has given details of demand draft issued from November 15, 2016 to November 19, 2016 from eight bank accounts in the name of Sunil Kumar, Dinesh Kumar, Abhilasha Dubey, Madan Kumar, Madan Saini, Satya Narain Dagdi and Seema Bai on various dates. Most of the Demand Drafts issued have since been recovered.
“The statements recorded during investigation have evidentiary value under Section 50 PMLA. Prima facie, the version given by them is in consonance with the prosecution case. The prosecution has further relied upon call data records, CCTV footage. Account Trend Analysis, the high court order notes.
It added, “The stated activity allegedly indulged into by the accused named in the commission of predicate offence is replete with mens rea. In that, the concealment, possession, acquisition or use of the property by projecting or claiming it as untainted property and converting the same by bank drafts, would certainly come within the sweep of criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence. That would come within the meaning of Section 3 and punishable under Section 4 of the Act.”
Some lawyers, who are aware of the facts of Chidambaram’s case, on the condition of anonymity, said certain paragraphs in the November 15 order of the high court are similar to those of high court’s May 5, 2017 and Supreme Court’s November 2017 orders on Tandon’s bail.
Tandon, who was arrested in 2016, is an accused in the demonetisation-related money laundering case.
In the INX Media money-laundering case, the ED had arrested 74-year-old Chidambaram on October 16.
He was arrested by the CBI on August 21 in the INX Media corruption case and was granted bail by the Supreme Court in the CBI case on October 22.
The case was registered by the CBI on May 15, 2017, alleging irregularities in a Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) clearance granted to the INX Media group for receiving overseas funds of Rs 305 crore in 2007, during Chidambaram’s tenure as finance minister.
Thereafter, the ED had lodged a money-laundering case in this regard in 2017.