Supreme Court directs full-fledged probe against Tihar Jail officers for conniving with jailed Unitech promoters

The Supreme Court has ordered immediate suspension and a full-fledged probe against Tihar Jail officials for conniving with Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra and allowing them to conduct business while they were lodged in Tihar Jail.

Upon the report filed by Rakesh Asthana, Commissioner, Delhi Police, the Special Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice M.R. Shah directed that the officers who have been prima facie found to have connived with the Chandra brothers be placed under suspension pending inquiry. The bench further directed the registration of a criminal case against them under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.  

“In terms of para 37 of the report, we grant permission for a full fledged criminal investigation against the person mentioned and also against the unknown persons who are not mentioned,” the bench stated.

The bench also directed the Ministry of Home Affairs to comply with Asthana’s suggestions with respect to enhancing prison management within 4 weeks. The bench also directed that the updated status report of Enforcement Directorate (ED) and the Serious Fraud Investigation Office be made available on or before the next date of hearing.

Senior Advocate Vikas Singh, appearing on behalf of accused Sanjay Chandra, emphasized on perusing the forensic audit conducted by Grant Thornton stating that the Chandras are not like promoters of Amrapali. To which, the bench stated that at present it emerges that report by forensic auditors is a subject matter of a probe by the ED. It will not be in accordance with the law to provide underlying material which forms subject matter of investigation to the accused at this stage, the bench said.

Earlier on August 26, the Apex Court had directed the transfer of Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra from Tihar jail to Arthur Road jail and Taloja Central jail respectively and stated that no special treatment be given other than what is provided in the Jail Manual.

The aforesaid order was passed by while placing reliance on one of the two letters circulated by ASG Madhvi Divan appearing on behalf of the ED with respect to the conduct of Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra under judicial custody within the premises of Tihar Jail.

The bench deplored the conduct of the Tihar Jail Superintendent and other jail authorities when they observed that the jail’s staff was working in connivance with the two accused to let them freely communicate and instruct their officials and disposing of their properties from inside the jail. The bench further observed that the conduct of Tihar Jail authority was absolutely shameless and the court has lost faith in Tihar Jail.

ASG Madhavi Divan while placing reliance on the letter circulated stated that the same was developed when ED found one underground office, which was being operated by Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra when on parole or bail. She further stated that they have seized hundreds of digital signatures and several computers, which contain sensitive data pertaining to properties in India and abroad, if the accused are not stopped the properties will be disposed of in no time.

Vikas Singh opposed the aforesaid investigation and stated that there is no shocking revelation by the ED, the said secret underground office was listed on the website of Ministry of Corporate Affairs, and furthermore not even till date, we know what has been found against the accused. He stated that, “Up till now they have developed and delivered more than 1 lakh flats and are willing to do the same, if the opportunity is given.”

The bench in reply stated that the company has been handed over to the new board and it is too late to make such a request. 

Sanjay Chandra, promoter and director of India’s second largest real estate investment company Unitech, was arrested by the Economic Offences Wing (EoW) of Delhi Police on March 31, 2017 on charges of financial irregularities to the tune of Rs 7.24 billion under Sections 420, 406 and 120B of the Indian Penal Code. Chandra was then put in jail for cheating and fraud cases in relation to non-delivery of houses and diversion of money. There are allegations against him that he was wrongly investing one project’s funds into another project.

The ED initiated its money laundering investigation on the basis of various FIRs filed by homebuyers against Unitech Group and its promoters. The matter has now been listed for October 21.
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