The Supreme Court on Thursday directed that former Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra be shifted from Tihar Jail in Delhi to Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail and Taloja prison in Maharashtra after the ED said they were conducting business from the premises in connivance with the staff.
The top court, which perused two status reports of the Enforcement Directorate, said the Tihar jail superintendent and other staff are ”absolutely shameless” for conniving with the Chandra brothers to flout the court orders and undermine its jurisdiction.
A bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and M R Shah said the brothers will be lodged separately in Arthur Road and Taloja prisons.
”We are of the view that materials on record indicates that despite the orders of this court, activities are taking place within the premises of Tihar Central Jail, where the two accused are lodged, which have the propensity to undermine the authority of the court, as also to derail the investigations which have been ordered to be done by the ED including but not confined to the PMLA.
"In the circumstances, we direct that both the accused Ajay Chandra and Sanjay Chandra be shifted from Tihar Central Jail to the premises of Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai and at Taloja Central Jail,” the bench said in its order.
During the hearing, the bench told Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for ED, ”Tihar jail officials have actively connived with the accused to flout the orders of this court. We have to say that the Tihar Jail superintendent and his staff are absolutely shameless. But we don't want to miss wood for the trees.
"All we have to say is that Tihar Jail staff are shameless. Can you imagine it is happening right in the Centre and in the capital? We will certainly take them to task. We will first shift the accused from this jail.”
The two ED reports have raised some ”serious and disturbing” issues for consideration and will be dealt with accordingly, the top court said.
It directed the Delhi police commissioner to personally hold inquiry forthwith about the conduct of Tihar Jail staff with regard to the Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks.
The bench said the contents of the ED letter written to Delhi CP raises serious issues and of concern to the court in particular is that its effort and jurisdiction are sought to be undermined in complicity with the jail staff.
It said ED's submission that computers and other documents seized in the search and seizure operation should be given to the new board of management of Unitech cannot be accepted as these things should remain with the investigating agency to enable it probe all aspects.
”This is not a court monitored investigation. We want ED to probe all aspects untrammelled. Your (ED) power is untrammelled. We don't want these computers and documents to be handed over to anyone else.
"If you need a forensic auditor, you can engage the one the court has engaged and if you want someone else to assess, then you can hire. There is no impediment on that,” the bench said, adding that the court should be apprised of the status of investigation in four weeks.
It noted that in 2019 an order was passed directing that facilities which were given to Chandra brothers for disposing of properties and generating funds for the stalled projects were revoked.
Senior advocates Vikas Singh and Siddharth Dave, appearing for the brothers, said that ED has made prejudicial arguments to persuade the court that they do not get default bail, which they are entitled to in this case.
So far the ED has not been able to find the trail of money and the secret office which they are talking of is in the Green Park area and already on record, Singh said.
”I have nothing to hide. What reliefs are given to the new management, had it been given to me, I would have constructed all the flats and delivered it to the home buyers. The court should not act on the prejudicial arguments made by ED,” Singh said, while denying all the wrongdoing alleged by ED saying both the brothers have been following the jail manual.
Earlier in the day, the ED made a startling revelation that it has unearthed a ”secret underground office” in Delhi which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay when on parole or bail.
ED, which has been investigating money laundering charges against the Chandras' and Unitech Ltd, said in its report that both Sanjay and Ajay have rendered the entire judicial custody meaningless as they have been freely communicating, instructing their officials and disposing of properties from inside the jail in connivance with the prison staff there.
Both Sanjay and Ajay, who are in jail since August 2017, are accused of allegedly siphoning home buyers' money. The top court in its October 2017 order had asked them to deposit Rs 750 crore with the apex court registry by December 31, 2017.
The Chandras have claimed that they complied with the court's conditions and they have deposited an amount in excess of Rs 750 crore and therefore they are granted bail.
The matter pertains to a criminal case which started initially by one complaint lodged in 2015 and later joined by 173 other home buyers of Unitech projects' -- 'Wild Flower Country' and 'Anthea Project' -- situated in Gurugram.