Two high court benches recuse from hearing petition of accused.
Two division benches of the Punjab and Haryana High Court have refused to hear a petition, filed by advocate Mukesh Mittal’s clerk Ajay Singh, seeking quashing of an Enforcement Case Information Report registered under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act on the grounds that the Directorate of Enforcement did not have the jurisdiction either to register it or to commence further probe.
While investigating the case, the Enforcement Directorate recently conducted raids at the residence of Mukesh Mittal and his employees and friends, including Ajay Singh. It also questioned them. Ajay Singh, Lal Chand and Parveen Kumar, all employees of Mittal, and Ashok Kanwal, an advocate, have applied for anticipatory bail in local courts.
Ajay Singh’s petition first came up for hearing before a division bench comprising Justices Rajive Bhalla and B S Walia on Wednesday. The court recused itself and ordered, “List this matter before some other Hon’ble Bench, of which one of us (Rajive Bhalla, J) is not a member, after obtaining orders in this regard from the Hon’ble the Acting Chief Justice.”
On Friday, the petition was listed before a division bench comprising Justices Satish Kumar Mittal and Deepak Sibal on the Acting Chief Justice’s directions. This bench also recused itself, and ordered, “Be placed before some other bench, after obtaining appropriate orders from Hon’ble the Acting Chief Justice.”
Incidentally, the division bench of Justices Rajive Bhalla and B S Walia is already hearing a connected case in which the ED has frozen the bank account of Chandigarh resident Sudeep Kaur Sawhney, who was summoned by the ED along with her husband advocate G S Sawhney for investigation on January 12 and 15. This case was listed for hearing on Friday, but the ED failed to file its reply despite the grant of 11 days’ time by the court on January 19. Hence, the case was adjourned for next hearing to February 12.
In his petition Ajay Singh, who has been working with advocate Mukesh Mittal since 2006, has argued that the offence under the PMLA had ceased to be cognisable in view of the amendment to Section 45, which was made with effect from July 1, 2005, necessitating the sanction/order from the jurisdictional magistrate in terms of Section 155(2) of the CrPC before embarking upon any lawful investigation.
He submitted that in terms of Section 157 of the CrPC, pursuant to registration of a case involving a cognisable offence under Section 154 of the CrPC, it was imperative for the officer concerned to forthwith send a report to the competent magistrate. In the present case, a copy of the ECIR was not sent to the magistrate, he said.
The petitioner submitted that he was a “director in some private limited companies. However, it is further a matter of record that the petitioner has never withdrawn or deposited any amount in any of these companies”. He also submitted that he had applied for anticipatory bail in the case and the application was pending in the Chandigarh district court.