The Supreme Court on Wednesday allowed former
promoter Sanjay Chandra‘s wife Preeti Chandra, lodged in Tihar Jail in a money laundering case, to move to a trial court for bail after her interrogation is over in the case. A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and M R Shah said that her bail application should be decided by the trial court on its merit without being influenced by the orders of the top court.
The top court noted that an Additional Sessions Judge in Patiala House Court had on August 8, granted permission to the Enforcement Directorate to interrogate Preeti Chandra for three days within a period of 40 days in the case.
The bench said that after her interrogation of three days is over, she can move an application for bail in the matter.
The ED filed the status report in the matter after she had moved an application before the top court seeking its nod to move the trial court for bail as it is monitoring the case.
Earlier, on May 18, the top court was told by ED that Preeti Chandra is a “serious flight risk” and was the “mastermind of conspiracy” to pass on the information inside Tihar jail when her husband was lodged there.
The probe agency has said that She should not be treated just as the spouse of Sanjay Chandra as She has a passport from the Dominican Republic and is head of Trikar Group, which has operations in several jurisdictions like UAE and Cayman Island.
The ED had submitted that allowing the plea to move to the trial court would jeopardise the investigation as the agency is at a very crucial turn in the case.
“She had tried to influence the witness, tried to flee the country. She had disposed of the assets and was the mastermind of the conspiracy to pass on information to her husband when he was lodged in Tihar jail”, Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for ED, had said earlier.
The ASG had said that the court had earlier cancelled bail in such matters and pointed out that Trikar Group, which is named after her children, has operations in countries that are not contracting parties where letter rogatory can be issued.
“She has been non-cooperating in the investigation and the agency has been unable to trace the trail of money and foreign assets. This has been a stumbling block for the agency”, Divan had said.
Preeti Chandra’s counsel had earlier said that she has been in custody since her arrest in October, last year and ED has never since then called her for investigation.
“They have been relying on earlier affidavits but the fact is that this is my statutory right to apply for bail. Since this court is seized of the matter, I had sought permission of this court. My rights under Article 21 cannot be taken away to apply for bail”, he had said.
Earlier on March 25, the top court had conditionally allowed Preeti Chandra five hours out of the prison on March 26 or April 5 to attend her maternal grandmother’s funeral.
The top court had asked Preeti Chandra to submit her Dominican Republic passport or any other passport that she has to the investigating officer before being allowed out of the prison.
It had ordered that she will not use any cell phone to communicate with anybody or access any other documents and that she will be escorted to the designated place by four Delhi Police personnel and officials of the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
The ED had then also opposed the relief, saying she was a flight risk and has acquired citizenship of the Dominican Republic, with which India has no extradition treaty, and that the agency does not want to “burn their hands” by allowing her to flee the country.
The ED had said that Preeti Chandra, who was arrested on March 10, 2021, had attempted to flee the country but was prevented from doing so due to the lookout circular.
The agency had recently filed a fresh charge sheet before a court here in connection with its money laundering probe against realty group Unitech, its promoter brothers Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra, and others.
The ED had made a startling claim in November last year 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.
Both Sanjay and Ajay, are in jail since August 2017, are accused of allegedly siphoning off home buyers’ money.
On November 10, last year, the top court said that it is a “sorry state of affairs” in Tihar Jail which has become a den of criminals, and murders are happening there. It had directed the Home Ministry to take immediate steps on prison reforms and enhance management.