The Supreme Court on Friday allowed media baron Raghav Bahl, who is facing money laundering charges, and his wife to go to London in connection with a medical condition, following a surgery that took place in 2021.

A Bench of Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice Surya Kant said that the petitioner and his spouse shall furnish an undertaking immediately upon the confirmation of their appointment to the effect that they shall return to India within two weeks from the date of departure.

It said that Bahl and his spouse shall file a copy of the undertaking, the itinerary, and a copy of the email scheduling the appointment for the medical check-up.

The agencies of the Union Government shall take steps for communicating the above directions, particularly, in the context of the lookout circular so as to facilitate the travel of the petitioner and his spouse to the UK for a period of two weeks. The petitioner and his spouse are permitted to travel to the UK for a period of two weeks on the above terms, it directed.

The Bench said that the interim order restraining coercive steps shall continue to remain in operation till the next date of listing.

It noted that on the previous occasion, the Solicitor General had stated that in all probability the matter can be resolved with a statement on behalf of the Union Government, at the present stage.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, submitted that there is no objection to Raghav Bahl, and his spouse Ritu Kapur, proceeding to London for two weeks.

At the outset, Senior Advocate Shyam Divan submitted that the petitioner's spouse had an appointment from March 5, 2022, to March 12-13, 2022 in London in connection with a medical condition, following a surgery that took place in 2021.

He said that since this period has elapsed, it is likely that a fresh appointment will be scheduled in April 2022.

Divan said that the petitioner and his spouse, against whom a lookout circular has been issued by the Union Government, may be permitted to proceed to the UK for two weeks, commencing at least three days prior to the scheduled date of appointment.

On December 15, last year, the top court had granted protection to Bahl from any coercive action of the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case lodged against him.

The Delhi High Court, which on December 3, last year had issued notice to the ED on Bahl's plea seeking quashing of the case, however, had refused to pass any order of interim protection to him.

The Apex Court had also ordered tagging of the fresh appeal of Bahl with the pending one on the issue.

On December 3, last year the high court had granted three weeks to the ED to file its response to the petition which, besides seeking quashing of the money laundering case, has also challenged the notices issued to Bahl by the investigating officer.

The ED case against the petitioner arises from a complaint by the Income Tax (I-T) Department and concerns the alleged laundering of funds to purchase an undisclosed asset in London.

The I-T Department had initiated proceedings against the petitioner under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act of 2015 for alleged irregularities in the returns filed for the assessment year (AY) 2018-2019.

Bahl's lawyer had stated that after re-filing, the income tax return for AY 2018-19 has now been cleared by the assessing authorities, and therefore, the money laundering proceedings cannot be allowed to go on.

Based on black money complaint, ED proceedings commenced. Now there is no violation, there are no proceeds of crime. IT (authority) has accepted the income tax return for 2018-2019 in 2021, he had told the high court.

Bahl's lawyer had added that while the challenge to the black money proceedings was pending before the Supreme Court, which had earlier given him protection from coercive action, in that case, the ED has been issuing notices to him in connection with the money laundering case.

The petition claimed that since Bahl has done no wrong , the continuation of the process of inquiry under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 without having any subsisting basis in fact or law has a deleterious effect on his life, business, and reputation.

The Respondent has ignored this, and has issued further Summons on November 16, 2021, now against all the family members i.e. the Petitioner herein, plus the Son, Daughter, and the wife of the Petitioner, to begin appearing within the next 24 hrs, it stated.

The ED had said that the issue of money laundering proceedings is not before the apex court and argued that the investigation by the agency cannot be stalled on the presumption that the Supreme Court would rule in favour of the petitioner.

The counsel for the ED had said he would file a reply on behalf of the ED and that the petitioner was only being called for an inquiry.

With PTI inputs