The Supreme Court has disposed of former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Manish Sisodia's bail plea in the corruption and money-laundering cases lodged by the agencies in relation to the alleged excise policy scam.

The Court was hearing Sisodia’s plea challenging Delhi High Court Judgment rejecting his plea for regular bail in the cases registered by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Directorate of Enforcement in connection with the 2021–2022 Delhi excise policy scam. This is the second time the Apex Court is hearing Sisodia's bail plea. Earlier, on October 30, 2023, the Apex Court Bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice SVN Bhatti, had rejected his plea for bail in both cases.

After the hearing, the Vacation Bench of Justice Aravind Kumar and Justice Sandeep Mehta ordered, "Liberty to revive prayer given, after final complaint/chargesheet is filed in the case."

When the matter was taken up again after lunch break, SGI Tushar Mehta informed the Bench that they will file the final complaint/chargesheet in the matter within two weeks.

At the outset, Solicitor General (SG) Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI and ED, submitted, "I am appearing, I am opposing the Petition."

Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for Sisodia, contended, "This is for issuance of notice, I have been in custody for 15 months...Investigation is on. Trial is to really begin. 6th and 7th supplementary chargesheets filed 2 weeks ago. 8 prosecution complaints filed. ED has cited 162 witnesses. Filed over 5000 pages. CBI has cited 294 witnesses, 31000 pages of documents. Prosecution says delay is by me." Singhvi argued that the CBI and ED are delaying the matter by continuing investigation for 2 years.

"ED has grossly concealed documents it acquired during the investigation and has placed exculpatory documents in 'unrelied documents," Singhvi contended. He argued, "A new test adopted by the Special Judge and High Court Judge. They note that the trial is yet to commence. No attribution for delay can be made to Sisodia. However, contrary to Supreme Court order, High Court held there was no delay in pre-trial proceedings."

"Today I am seeking notice or the matter may be listed before the same bench, if my learned friend is opposing. They have not filed their reply," the Senior Counsel contended.

To this, the Bench said, "Its alright. We are considering it."

"Trial has not even started. No snail's pace, or tortoise pace. Snail's pace is still pace...Notice is between me and the court. My learned friend has not filed caveat, he cannot oppose it," Singhvi contended.

Justice Kumar said, "This practice of hearing the other side, before issuing notice, I was talking to my brother...I was informed about this Courts Judgment, the other side can oppose even issuance of notice."

Justice Mehta remarked, "We have to be conscious that in such cases, delay may not be attributable to either side the accused or the prosecution, because of the sheer volume of evidence, delay may be inevitable."

The Solicitor General, while opposing even the issuance of notice in the Special Leave Petition (SLP), contended, "We tried to fulfill assurance of completing trial in time-bound manner. Please see the High Court order....This has become a trend these days that you delay trial and then take it as a ground for bail."

SG Mehta contended that they do not oppose day to day trial in the case. "There is no intention to delay...We moved an application before trial court in December 2023 for day to day trial," he submitted.

Taking note of the submissions, the Bench disposed of the SLPs.

Pertinently, on May 21, the Single-Judge Bench of Delhi High Court had dismissed Sisodia's bail plea in CBI and ED cases related to Delhi excise policy scam. The Bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma had observed that there has been no delay in the supply of documents or by the Trial Court.

The Court had remarked that "justice hurried may lead to justice buried," as mentioned in the Apex Court's recent judgment in Sunita Devi v. The State of Bihar & Anr. On merits, the Single-Judge Bench opined, "The applicant, Manish Sisodia, was involved in the destruction of mobile phones...was responsible for 18 a senior leader of the Aam Aadmi an influential person.."

On May 8, the Court had granted ED and CBI more time to file reply in the matter. Earlier, on May 3, the Court had issued notices to the two agencies asking them to file their replies. In the High Court, Sisodia had challenged a Trial Court’s April 30 order in which his bail petitions were dismissed on the ground that the stage was not right for granting bail to Sisodia. The Court had continued the interim relief earlier granted to Sisodia by the trial court to meet his ailing wife once a week in custody during the pendency of the pleas. The Trial Court dismissed Sisodia's bail pleas in the corruption and money-laundering cases lodged by the CBI and ED, respectively, in connection with alleged irregularities in the formulation and execution of the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy for 2021–22.

The beneficiaries diverted "illegal" gains to the accused officials and made false entries in their books of account to evade detection, the probe agencies have alleged. According to the CBI and ED, which are probing the cases against Sisodia, irregularities were committed while modifying the excise policy and undue favours extended to the licence holders.

In the April 30 order, the Special Judge had denied the relief, saying the stage was not right for granting bail to Sisodia. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader was arrested by the CBI on February 26, 2023, for his alleged role in the "scam". The ED had arrested the former Deputy Chief Minister in a money-laundering case stemming from the CBI FIR on March 9, 2023.

Sisodia resigned from the Delhi cabinet on February 28, 2023. The High Court had dismissed Sisodia's bail pleas in the CBI and the ED cases on May 30 and July 3 last year. On October 30, 2023, the Supreme Court refused to interfere with the High Court's order, saying the allegation levelled by the probe agencies that "windfall gains" of Rs 338 crore were made by a few wholesale liquor distributors was "tentatively supported" by material and evidence. The Delhi government implemented the policy on November 17, 2021, but scrapped it at the end of September 2022 amid allegations of corruption.

Cause Title: Manish Sisodia v. Directorate of Enforcement and Manish Sisodia v. Central Bureau of Investigation [SLP (Crl) No. 7795/2024 & SLP (Crl) No. 7799/2024]