Unitech case: SC clarifies earlier order, allows ED custodial interrogation of former promoters

Asia's Tech News Daily

#Real Estate, #Supreme Court, #Unitech case, August 26

The Supreme Court on December 1 clarified that its earlier order concerning production of former Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra through video conferencing facility will not come in the way and allowed custodial interrogation of the two by the Enforcement Directorate.

The Enforcement Directorate had sought clarification of the August 26 order of the Supreme Court by which it had transferred the former Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra to two separate jails in Mumbai and said that they will participate in judicial proceedings against them through video conferencing.

“The ED required a clarification that they should be at liberty to call upon the two for custodial interrogation. That clarification has been made. Jail authorities were not allowing it and had been citing the August 26 order. The two will remain here for custodial interrogation for 15 days as and when required and then lodged back in Mumbai jail,” Pawanshree Agrawal, amicus curiae in the Unitech matter, told Moneycontrol.

The SC will hear the Unitech matter again tomorrow.

ED has said that given the fresh evidence found against the former promoters, it needs to confront them for which their custodial interrogation is required. It had moved an application before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM), Patiala House Court on which production warrants were issued on November 2 and November 12.

Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan said that in its August 26 order, the court had stipulated that video conferencing facility from the jails Arthur Road and Taloja, would be made available to the accused of attending judicial proceedings, and therefore, a clarification is required to permit the ED to apply for production of accused.

She said that despite two production warrants issued by the CMM court, the Mumbai jail authorities are not producing them on the ground that the top court had asked that they be produced through video conferencing.

A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah said on December 1 that “having regard to the contents of the application, which have been filed by the ED, we clarify that the order dated August 26, 2021, will not come in the way of ED to bring the requisite application before the magistrate for the purpose of seeking custodial interrogation of the accused, which shall be decided in its own merits.”

The bench asked Divan, also appearing for the Ministry of Home Affairs, about the compliance of the report of Delhi Commissioner of Police, Rakesh Asthana who has recommended installation of more CCTV cameras, mobile jammers, and body scanners in Tihar Jail premises. Divan said that she had seen the draft report of MHA on Tuesday but it was not up to the mark and more needs to be done and therefore she needs two more weeks to file the compliance affidavit.

The bench granted two weeks to file the compliance affidavit but said that she needs to apprise the court on December 9 about the steps that have been taken by the Ministry in Tihar jail following the report of Asthana and what it is planning to do.

The Supreme Court on October 6 had ordered immediate suspension and a full-fledged probe against some Tihar Jail officials for conniving with the former promoters of the embattled company Unitech, following a report submitted by Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana filed in a sealed cover.

A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah had directed that criminal cases be registered against Tihar Jail officials and other unknown persons under relevant provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code against those involved in collusion on the basis of the report.

The Supreme Court on August 26 had said that the Enforcement Directorate’s reports about the conduct of promoters of the embattled firm Unitech Group and the connivance of Tihar jail staff in flouting the orders and undermining the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court have raised serious and disturbing issues and directed that Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra be shifted from Tihar Jail here to Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail and Taloja jail in Maharashtra.

It had also directed that Delhi Police Commissioner personally hold an inquiry about the conduct of Tihar Jail staff with regard to Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks. A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah had said the brothers will be lodged separately in Arthur Road and Taloja prisons.

The Enforcement Directorate, which is investigating money laundering charges against Unitech’s Chandras, revealed to the Supreme Court on August 26 that Ramesh Chandra and Sanjay Chandra were operating a “secret underground office” in South Delhi from the Tihar jail. The office was visited by his sons Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra when on parole or bail.

It said in its report that the Chandras have rendered the entire judicial custody meaningless as they have been freely communicating, instructing their officials and disposing of properties from inside the jail in connivance with the prison staff there.

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. Both Sanjay and Ajay are accused of allegedly siphoning home buyers’ money.

On August 25, the Supreme Court permitted the new board of management of Unitech Group to hold negotiations with the three Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) about the outstanding dues and the settlement agreement and apprise it within four weeks.

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