Thursday, Mar 30, 2023

SC Directs Suspension Of Tihar Jail Officials Who Colluded With Unitech Ex-Promoters Chandra Brothers

SC Directs Suspension Of Tihar Jail Officials Who Colluded With Unitech Ex-Promoters Chandra Brothers

The Enforcement Directorate had earlier disclosed that Unitech's imprisoned ex-promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra were conducting business from prison.

Chandra brothers File Photo

The Supreme Court Wednesday directed suspension of Tihar Jail officials and ordered full-fledged probe into their collusion with Unitech's imprisoned ex-promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra.

The apex court’s direction came on the basis of Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana's report filed in a sealed cover.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah directed registration of cases against the Tihar Jail officials and other unknown persons under the provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code against those involved in the collusion as per the report. 

It also directed suspension of Tihar Jail officials, pending proceedings against whom cases will be lodged as per the report, following ED's disclosure that the Chandra brothers were conducting business from prison. 

The top court further directed the Home Ministry to comply with Asthana's suggestions in the report on enhancing prison management and allowed a copy to be shared with the ministry for necessary compliance of directions. 

Besides, the court also took on record reports filed in sealed cover by Enforcement Directorate (ED), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and Delhi Police, and listed the matter for further hearing on October 21. 

During the hearing, which witnessed heated exchange between the bench and senior advocate Vikas Singh, appearing for Sanjay Chandra, on the issue of sharing of reports of forensic audit and probe agencies, the top court said that natural justice is being followed as under the law and documents which would become part of charge sheet or case diary cannot be shared with the accused.

 "My 84-year-old father and wife have been arrested by the ED without any charge being proven against me. Now they would arrest my children. This is unfair, without giving me a copy of the forensic audit done by M/s Grant Thornton to put my defence, this court has taken over my company,” Singh said.

 The forensic audit report said that they have diverted home buyers money and the ED is proceeding on that premise, but he is innocent until proven guilty, he added.

 “Out of Rs 2,600 crore transaction, I have collected Rs 1,400 crore from home buyers and have put Rs 1,200 crore from my pocket. We are the second largest real estate company in the country and have delivered over one lakhs flats to the home buyers.

 "If tomorrow, I am acquitted of the charge of diversion of funds, will the court be able to set the clock back. This will not be possible and the court will have to repent this,” Singh said.

Justice Chandrachud, who seldom loses his cool, said angrily, “What kind of argument is this that this court will repent its mistake. What kind of language is this? You are making allegations against the court. We are bound by law and cannot share the reports which will become part of the case diary. May be you are not briefed properly by your clients. We are very much aware of natural justice”.

Justice Shah also intervened and asked Singh, “Don't raise your pitch too high and don't raise the pitch of the case. It seems you are not aware in what transactions your wife was involved in. Don't say such things and make allegations against the court. We never expected this from your Mr Vikas Singh”. 

At the outset, when the top court was perusing the reports filed by the probe agencies Singh said that this kind of ex-parte hearing should not go on and he has a Constitutional right to be heard.

 The bench said it cannot allow the status report to be shared with him as the investigation is still under way and the document may become part of the case diary.

Singh said that how many real estate companies the court will try to run as it is already running Amrapali and Unitech, where for every small thing permission is needed.

On August 26, the apex court had directed that the Chandra brothers be shifted from Tihar Jail in the national capital to Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail and Taloja prison in Maharashtra after the ED had said that they were conducting business from the premises in connivance with the staff.

The top court, which had then perused two status reports of the ED, said that the Tihar Jail Superintendent and other staff are “absolutely shameless” for conniving with the Chandra brothers to flout the court orders and undermine its jurisdiction.

Pursuant to the direction of the top court, the Chandra brothers were shifted to jails in Mumbai.

It had directed the Delhi Police Commissioner to personally hold inquiry forthwith about the conduct of the Tihar Jail staff with regard to the Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks.

The ED had made a startling revelation that it had unearthed a “secret underground office” here which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay when on parole or bail.

Besides ED and SFIO, Economic Offence Wing of Delhi Police is also conducting investigation into the affairs of the Unitech Group and business transactions of erstwhile promoters of the real estate company.

Both Sanjay and Ajay who are in jail since August 2017 are accused of allegedly siphoning home buyers' money. The top court in its October 2017 order had asked them to deposit Rs 750 crore with the apex court registry by December 31, 2017.

The brothers have claimed that they complied with the court’s conditions and they have deposited an amount in excess of Rs 750 crore and, therefore, they are granted bail. PTI