New Delhi:

The Supreme Court on Tuesday granted bail to Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh, even as it posed some searching questions for the arresting agency – the Enforcement Directorate – including asking why he had been jailed for over six months without a trial or recovery of alleged bribe money.

The probe agency – asked specifically if there was genuine further need for custody of Mr Singh – eventually declined to contest the opposition leader’s bail plea; appearing for the ED, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju said “without going into merits, I will make a concession in the bail matter.”

“Nothing has been recovered… there is no trace (of the Rs 100 crore the AAP allegedly received as bribes for allotting liquor licences to the ‘South Group’)…” the top court noted earlier.

The ED’s decision to not contest the bail reportedly came after the court noted that should Mr Singh be released, it would be under Section 45 of the PMLA, or Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

READ | “Can’t Keep Filing Chargesheets To Keep People In Jail”: Top Court

This section says the court can release a PMLA accused if there is prima facie belief the person did not commit the offence, and that s/he is not likely to transgress any laws while out on bail.

In this context, the court last month referred to Manish Sisodia, the former Delhi Deputy Chief Minister, who was arrested last February in the same case and who has seen multiple bail pleas rejected.

READ | Supreme Court Rejects Manish Sisodia’s Curative Petition For Bail

The court, meanwhile, today also observed that Dinesh Arora, one of the accused who later turned approver, or government witness, had not actually implicated Mr Singh in his initial statements.

Mr Arora was released on bail in August last year under Section 45 after turning approver.

Sanjay Singh has been in Delhi’s Tihar Jail since his arrest October last year in the alleged liquor excise policy scam, which has roiled the opposition party – and seen the arrests of Mr Sisodia and his former boss, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal – weeks before a general election.

Mr Singh was arrested on money laundering charges linked to the alleged scam. 

The AAP leader has seen earlier bail pleas – filed before lower courts, including the Delhi High Court – turned down; in February, in fact, the High Court said “no ground” for relief had been made, but directed the trial court to “expedite the trial in the present case once it commences”.

READ | AAP’s Sanjay Singh’s Bail Plea Rejected In Money Laundering Case

That relief was finally granted this afternoon, after a bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna, Justice Dipankar Datta, and Justice Prasanna B Varale said Mr Singh could be released during pendency of the trial.

The court said the terms and conditions of the release are to be fixed by the trial court. What is significant, though, is that Mr Singh can participate in political activities, meaning he can campaign for the AAP, which faces a potential shortage of big-name leaders in the run-up to the polls.

He has, however, been cautioned against commenting on the ED’s investigation.

News of Mr Singh’s release has been welcomed by his colleague and Delhi PWD Minister Atishi, who posted “satyameva jayate“, or “the truth will win”, on X (formerly Twitter). Atishi has been leading the AAP’s fight back and protestations of innocence since Chief Minister Kejriwal was arrested.

READ | Atishi Claims BJP Switch Offer, Says These AAP Leaders To Be Arrested Soon

This morning she claimed four other senior AAP leaders, including herself, had been earmarked for arrest by central agencies – in connection with the alleged liquor policy scam – if they do not join the Bharatiya Janata Party. The opposition has routinely accused the BJP of using central agencies to target rivals, particularly before an election. The BJP has equally routinely denied these charges.

NDTV Explains | Why Enforcement Directorate Arrested Arvind Kejriwal

What Is Alleged Delhi Liquor Policy Scam?

The Enforcement Directorate believes the now-scrapped liquor policy provided an impossibly high profit margin of 185 per cent for retailers and 12 per cent for wholesellers. Of the latter, six per cent – over Rs 600 crore – were bribes and the money was allegedly used to fund the AAP’s poll campaigns.

READ | Kejriwal Lodged In 14×8 Feet Cell. See What All Court Has Allowed

Chief Minister Kejriwal was declared the “kingpin” of this alleged scam by the ED and arrested on March 21. Mr Kejriwal, who continues to run the Delhi government, is now in Tihar Jail till April 15.

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