New Delhi, Jul 23: The Delhi High Court Thursday granted bail to former Fortis Healthcare promoter Shivinder Mohan Singh in a money laundering case related to alleged misappropriation of funds at Religare Finvest Ltd (RFL), saying it does not perceive any grave threat to the interests of the society or the public at large with his release.
Justice Anup Jairam Bhambhani granted the relief to Shivinder on furnishing a personal bond of Rs one crore and two sureties by family members of Rs 25 lakh each.
The judge, who asked the accused to surrender his passport, also directed the investigating officer of the ED to issue a request to the Bureau of Immigration of the Ministry of Home Affairs to forthwith open a LookOut Circular in Shivinder's name to prevent him from leaving the country with trial court's permission.
The high court imposed various other bail conditions on him, including that he shall not tamper with the evidence or influence witnesses, directly or indirectly.
He was arrested in the money laundering case by Enforcement Directorate (ED) and fraud case by EOW on December 12 and October 10 last year respectively.
He will remain in jail as he has not been granted bail in the EOW's case yet.
ED, through advocates Amit Mahajan and Nitesh Rana, had opposed the bail plea saying that in the present case, money was diverted through a complex web of transactions, and finding the trail was not easy and if released on bail, he could tamper with the evidence.
The high court, in its 45-page judgment, said people's trust in the criminal justice system must rest on a surer footing than on pre-trial punishment by keeping accused persons in prison.
Statistics available on the Delhi Prisons website as on December 31, 2019, show that the proportion of undertrials to convicts in Delhi prisons is about 82 percent to 18 percent. These numbers are telling. A prison is a place for punishment, and no punishment can be legitimate without a trial. There must be a compelling basis, grounds, and reasons to detain an undertrial in judicial custody, which this court does not discern in the present case, it said.
The court observed there is no law that an accused, yet to be tried, is to be kept in custody only on a hunch or a presumption that he will prejudice or impede trial or send any message to the society.
The only message that goes out to the society by keeping an accused in prison before finding him guilty, is that our system works only on impressions and conjectures and can keep an accused in custody even on the presumption of guilt, it said.
The court said no one is seeking to prevent or forestall further investigation but for the sake of an on-going probe, it cannot warp the entire concept of pre-trial imprisonment and bail.
It is beyond contention that the consequences of pre-trial detention are deleterious and that keeping an undertrial in jail seriously jeopardizes the preparation of his legal defense. If kept in custody, the applicant (Shivinder) will not be able to effectively brief and consult with his lawyers, collate evidence in his defense and thereby defend himself effectively, it said.
The court noted that the alleged offending transactions cannot be undone or altered as they are reflected in various records, including FIR and documents of SEBI, RBI, and Registrar of Companies.
It said the records related to the transactions are already seized by the ED and as the evidence is documentary in nature, no purpose would be served by keeping in Jain Shivinder, who has deep roots in society, with his myriad business interests, vast properties, and large family.
He is a business tycoon, too well known to go missing without a trace. This, apart from the fact that requisite conditions can be imposed to prevent his unannounced exit from the country. The applicant is therefore not a flight risk, the court said.
It directed Shivinder, represented through advocate Tanveer Ahmed Mir, to cooperate in the investigation, not to leave the country without prior permission of the court concerned, and not to contact or visit or have any transaction with officials or employees of the banks, financial institutions and entities which are concerned with the complaint in this case, whether in India or abroad.
ED was also directed to issue a written intimation to such officials or employees to not engage in any manner with Shivinder, it said.
Meanwhile, another bench of the high court on Thursday denied bail to former CEO of REL Kavi Arora and former CMD of Religare Enterprises Limited (REL) Sunil Godhwani in the fraud case registered by the EOW.
The ED in January had filed a charge sheet against former Fortis Healthcare promoters Malvinder Mohan Singh and Shivinder Singh and Godhwani in the money laundering case related to alleged misappropriation of funds at RFL.
RFL is a group firm of REL - Religare Enterprises Ltd, which was earlier promoted by Malvinder Singh and his brother Shivinder Singh.
The EOW registered an FIR in March last year after it received a complaint from RFL's Manpreet Suri against Shivinder, Malvinder, Godhwani, former CEO of REL Kavi Arora and former CFO of RFL Anil Saxena and others, alleging that loans were taken by them while managing the firm but the money was invested in other companies. ED lodged a money laundering case based on this.