The Delhi High Court has sought the ED’s stand on a petition by Hyderabad businessman Arun Ramchandra Pillai challenging his arrest and remand in a money laundering case related to the alleged Delhi excise policy scam, wherein he claims “third degree” methods were applied to obtain information.
“Third degree” refers to brutality by police officers interrogating an accused.
Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma on Friday asked the probe agency to file a response with respect to the maintainability of the plea.
Advocate Nitesh Rana, appearing for the petitioner, argued that the March 6 arrest order of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the subsequent remand orders passed by the trial court sending him to the agency’s custody and then to judicial custody were in violation of the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
In his plea, the petitioner submitted that no grounds for arrest, either oral or written, were ever provided to him, as required under Section 19(1) of the PMLA, and that this also violates his constitutional rights.
It is further contended that the remand orders did not record any satisfaction of whether the ED had materials on record to form “reasons to believe” that the petitioner is guilty of an offense under the PMLA.
“The Directorate of Enforcement, in a vindictive manner and solely as a witch-hunting exercise, has employed coercive tactics to obtain information and used third-degree measures on the petitioner/applicant herein as well as the other accused,” the petition said.
The ED “was enabled to act in such an illegal manner by the impugned arrest order as well as the impugned remand orders, which in itself is grounds to quash the said impugned arrest order and the impugned remand orders,”, it stated.
The ED’s counsel contended that the petition was not maintainable.
The court has listed the matter for further hearing on November 3, when the petitioner’s bail plea is also scheduled for consideration.
Earlier this month, the petitioner had sought bail in the case, saying there was not an iota of evidence to keep him in jail.
On June 8, a trial court here dismissed Pillai’s plea for bail, saying his role was more serious than that of some other accused who are still in jail and that prima facie ED’s case was genuine.
Pillai was not only a participant in the “conspiracy,” but prima facie, he was also found to have been connected with different activities related to the proceeds, including its concealment, possession, acquisition, or use, and projecting it as untainted property, the trial court had said.
The ED has claimed in its charge sheet filed in the case that Pillai was a close associate of BRS MLC K. Kavitha. The ED’s money laundering case stems from a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR.
According to the CBI and the ED, irregularities were committed while modifying the Delhi Excise Policy 2021-22 (now scrapped), and undue favors were extended to license holders.
The Delhi government had implemented the excise policy on November 17, 2021, but scrapped it at the end of September 2022 amid allegations of corruption.