A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said that two reports of Enforcement Directorate about the conduct of Sanjay and Ajay and connivance of Tihar jail staff in flouting the orders and undermining the jurisdiction of the court have raised some “serious and disturbing” issues.
“In the circumstances, we order and direct that both the accused, Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra be shifted from Tihar Central Jail to the premises of Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai and Taloja Central Jail, Mumbai, respectively”, the bench said in its 27-page order.
It said that the video conferencing facility at the Jails to which the accused are being transferred shall be made available so as to enable them to record their presence in the court proceedings where their presence is required.
“A copy of this communication shall be forwarded by the Registrar (Judicial) of this Court to the Director General of Police, Maharashtra so that necessary arrangements can be made immediately for housing the accused at Arthur Road Jail and Taloja Central Jail,” the bench said.
It directed that Delhi Police Commissioner personally hold inquiry forthwith about the conduct of Tihar Jail staff with regard to Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks.
“In this backdrop, we are of the view that the Commissioner of Police must make an immediate enquiry into the contents of the communication dated August 16, 2021 addressed to him by the Directorate of Enforcement so that all the officers and staff of Tihar Central Jail who may be complicit in the violation of law are held accountable”, the bench said.
It added that this process should commence immediately and a report should be filed within a period of four weeks on the action which has been taken pursuant to the communication dated August 16, 2021.
The bench clarified that the enquiry shall be conducted by the Commissioner of Police, Delhi personally and shall not be delegated to any other officer.
The top court said that the ED’s status report contains a copy of a letter dated August 16, 2021 written by the Assistant Director of ED to the Delhi police commissioner.
It said that the letter contains details of the manner in which the premises of Tihar Central Jail have been misused by the accused for engaging in illegal activities by flouting the jail manual, making transfers of assets and dissipating the proceeds of crime and influencing witnesses and attempting to derail the investigation.
“The contents of ED’s communication dated August 16, 2021 raise serious and disturbing issues. What is of concern to the Court is that the jurisdiction of this Court is sought to be undermined in complicity with the jail staff, if the contents of the letter are true”, the bench said, adding, the second status report elaborates upon several aspects which have been adverted to in the communication to the Commissioner of Police.
It said that letter’s content and the material which has come on the record indicate that, despite the orders of this Court, irregularities are taking place within the precincts of the Tihar Central Jail where the two accused have been lodged.
“These activities undermine the authority of the Court and will derail the investigation which has been ordered by the Directorate of Enforcement,” the bench said.
It asked the Enforcement Directorate to proceed ahead with the investigation expeditiously saying that the probe in the matter has been proceeding at a “tardy pace” and the Court should be apprised of the status of the investigation within a period of four weeks from today.
The bench posted the matter for hearing after six weeks and sought a status report of ED by then.
The top court noted that its order of May 9, 2019, adverts to the status report filed by M/s Grant Thornton, who were appointed as Forensic Auditors to assess the financial dealings of Unitech Ltd, which indicates that the auditors were not provided complete access to all electronic records, including those which were in possession of the Chief Financial Officer, Unitech Ltd.
“In this backdrop, the Court recalled the facilities which had been made available to the accused – Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra, former Directors of Unitech Limited who were lodged in Tihar Central Jail.
The Court directed that they shall not be entitled to any additional facilities apart from those which are available in normal course in terms of the jail manual”, the bench said.
Making a startling revelation in the top court, the ED during the hearing said it has unearthed a “secret underground office” in South Delhi here which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay when on parole or bail.
ED which has been investigating money laundering charges against the Chandras’ and Unitech Ltd, said in its report that both Sanjay and Ajay 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.