HC asks ED to clarify status of Red Corner Notice against arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari

The Delhi High Court Friday directed ED to clarify the status of purported Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued against arms dealer Sanjay Bhandari, who has sought the quashing of a money laundering case against him.

While ED submitted in an affidavit that Bhandari was a fugitive, proclaimed absconder and evading the process of law, his counsel said the probe agency has concealed information from the court which last July quashed an order declaring his client as a proclaimed offender.

Justice Mukta Gupta asked Enforcement Directorate to file an affidavit clarifying the facts, its stand and the status of the RCN. The court listed the matter for further hearing on April 1.

Bhandari and his wife Sonia Bhandari have move separate pleas seeking quashing of the money laundering case lodged against them by ED in February 2017.

Bhandari, who is also an accused in a 2016 case under the Official Secrets Act relating to the recovery of confidential documents of the Ministry of Defence from his residence during an Income Tax raid in 2016, was declared a proclaimed offender by a trial court here in January last year.

He is also facing prosecution under provisions of the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act, 2015.

In an affidavit filed in response to Bhandari’s plea for quashing the case under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), ED has said: “It is relevant to note that when the petitioner fled India, there already existed a Look Out Circular (LOC) against him as his presence was needed by various law enforcement agencies.”

It added that because of the existence of LOC, Bhandari could not have travelled by air or sea and, therefore, he is believed to have fled by road through Indo-nepal Border.

“…a RCN has been issued by the Interpol declaring the petitioner as a fugitive wanted for prosecution,” ED said in the affidavit filed through central government standing counsel Amit Mahajan. The RCN was issued on October 16, 2017.

ED raised the preliminary objection on Bhandari’s petition and urged the court to first decide whether a person against whom RCN is issued, a declared absconder and evading process of law here, can be allowed to invoke the jurisdiction of the court.

Can such a person have the luxury of wasting the time of constitutional courts when large number of law abiding citizens are waiting justice, it said.

Bhandari, in an affidavit notarised in London, claimed that the ED’s response was “motivated” and “based on incorrect and misleading information” and ought to be rejected by the court.

His counsel annexed media reports with the affidavit showing that the purported RCN issued against him was not in existence and in any case the documents enclosed by the agency showed they cannot be used in any proceedings.

The high court, in its July 2018 decision, set aside the order declaring Bhandari a proclaimed offender in the OSA case as he was not an accused under the IPC.

It had said this would not affect the status of Bhandari as a “proclaimed person” and would be without prejudice to the action initiated against him to appear in terms of the proclamation issued.

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