A Delhi court has granted bail to Congress' Karnataka unit chief D K Shivakumar and others in connection with a 2018 money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Special Judge Vikas Dhull of Rouse Avenue Court Complex allowed the bail applications filed by Shivakumar, entrepreneur Sachin Narayan, transport owner Sunil Kumar Sharma, Karnataka Bhavan employee Haumanthaiah, and Rajendra N on personal bond of Rs 1 lakh each with one surety each of the like amount.
The court also asked them not to leave the country without prior permission of the court and said they shall not try to tamper with the evidence or influence any witness.
During the course of the hearing, the petitioners pointed out that Shivakumar has already been released on bail by the Delhi High Court and even the challenge made by the ED before the Supreme Court stands dismissed.
The ED had alleged that, during the regime of Congress, when Shivakumar was a Cabinet Minister in the state, he had generated a huge amount of illegal and unaccounted cash and criminal conspiracy was hatched with other co-accused persons for tax evasion and the tainted cash transported from Bengaluru to Delhi.
The Income Tax Department had conducted search and seizure operation on August 2, 2017 at various properties in Delhi belong to the accused persons and during the course of search, unaccounted cash of Rs 8,59,69,100 was seized, the probe agency stated.
Counsel for the petitioners submitted, with regard to ED's recovery of unaccounted cash and tax violation under the Income Tax Act, 1961, it is not an offence which is included in the schedule to the PMLA, therefore, it is not "proceeds of crime" and there is likelihood of present offence of money laundering being quashed.
"In these circumstances, putting the accused behind bars while dismissing his bail application would be grave injustice," counsel argued.
The court noted that the accused persons have been charge-sheeted without arrest and they had joined and cooperated in the investigation.
"... in the opinion of this court, for the applicability of twin conditions of Section 45 of PMLA for deciding the bail applications, the accused should be in the custody of the investigating agency. If the investigating agency itself took a conscious decision that it was not a fit case to arrest accused persons during investigation, then simply on filing of the charge sheet before a court, the accused cannot be taken into custody, by applying twin conditions of Section 45 of PMLA," the court said in the order.