Aam Aadmi Party leader Sanjay Singh won bail from the Supreme Court on Tuesday in the Delhi liquor policy case, as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) chose to make a tactical withdrawal rather than risk an apex court order which may queer the trial later on.

After a half day of hearing, Additional Solicitor General SV Raju, appearing for the ED, told a three-judge Bench led by Justice Sanjiv Khanna that the Central agency had decided to concede in favour of grant of bail to the Rajya Sabha MP, whose custody was no longer necessary.

‘No headway made’

The turnaround came when Justice Khanna pointed out that Singh had been behind bars for six months with no headway made in recovering the proceeds of the alleged crime involved or trace of the money trail leading to him. The court also pointed out that accused-turned-approver Dinesh Arora had not implicated Singh until his tenth statement claiming that the AAP leader had taken ₹2 crore in bribe. The Bench said there were still contradictions in Arora’s statements.

The court cautioned the ED that it may have to pronounce a detailed order, citing explicit reasons, as required under Section 45 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), in case it decided against granting Singh bail.

Justice Khanna said the ED would have to risk the possibility of such an order if it chose to argue against the bail.

Court cautions ED

“If we pass an order, we have to record reasons in terms of Section 45 and state that he has not prima facie committed an offence” Justice Khanna addressed Raju.

The mandate of Section 45 mandates that a court should prima facie be satisfied that the accused has not committed the crime before granting bail.

Justice Khanna subtly pointed out to the agency that such an order from the apex court would have ramifications later on in the outcome of the entire liquor policy case, especially during trial.

Changing tack

Changing tack, the ED said it would not oppose the bail in view of the “peculiar facts”, but the order should not be treated as a precedent.

The Central agency said though the case against Singh was arguable, it did not want to. The agency urged the court to record that it had not argued its case against the bail application.

Arguing for Singh, senior advocate AM Singhvi said the ED case against his client was entirely based on a statement made by Arora, who had exculpated the latter the previous nine times.

Singh said the case against Singh was motivated by vendetta after he had given a press conference.

“Perhaps my press conference may have been foolish, but you can be foolish and outspoken in a free country,” Singhvi submitted.

‘No money trail’

He said the absence of a money trail ideally meant there was no proceeds of crime. He highlighted that Singh deserved bail as he has been in custody for half a year now.

The ED had arrested Singh on October 4, 2023. The agency had alleged that Singh was involved in “acquiring, processing, concealing, dissipating, and using proceeds of crime” generated from the excise policy between 2021 and 2022 and had, in that time frame, received illegal funds to the tune of ₹2 crore as “proceeds of crime”. The agency had called Mr. Singh a “key conspirator” in its affidavit.

Singh had appealed to the Supreme Court for bail after both the trial court, in December, and the Delhi High Court had rejected his plea for personal liberty.

The grant of bail has spelt relief for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ahead of the Lok Sabha polls after the ED upped the ante recently to arrest Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the excise policy case. Former AAP Ministers, Manish Sisodia and Satyendar Jain, also continue to be behind bars in the case.