Supreme Court refuses to interfere with High Court verdict granting bail to ex-Mumbai cop [8.5.2023]

The Supreme Court on Monday refused to interfere with the Delhi High Court verdict granting bail to former Mumbai Police Commissioner Sanjay Pandey in a money laundering case related to alleged illegal phone tapping and snooping of National Stock Exchange (NSE) employees.

A bench of Justices S K Kaul and A Amanullah said the observations made by the high court in its December 8 last year judgement granting bail to Pandey will not have any effect during the trial in the case.

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had challenged the high court verdict before the apex court.

Additional Solicitor General S V Raju, appearing for the ED, told the bench that the high court had done a "mini trial" while deciding the bail plea.

"Let it be," the bench observed, adding that order granting bail to Pandey was six months old.

Raju then requested for a direction that the observations made by the high court should not affect the trial in the case.

"Needless to say that the observations made while granting bail will not in any way affect the trial," the bench observed.

In its verdict, the high court had observed that Pandey was prima facie "not guilty" of acquiring or retaining the "proceeds of crime".

It had ordered his release on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties of the like amount subject to certain conditions.

The high court had said while tapping phone lines without consent was prima facie a breach of privacy, the scheduled offences under the under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) are not made out and the ED has "not substantiated" that Pandey "derived or obtained any property" from a criminal activity.

It had clarified that at the stage of bail, it was not determining the guilt of the accused but only assessing the matter on broad probabilities.

The money laundering case being probed by ED arises from a CBI FIR against Pandey and his company iSec Services Private Limited for the alleged commission of offences under the Indian Penal Code, Indian Telegraph Act and Prevention of Corruption Act.

Pandey had founded iSec Services Pvt. Ltd. in 2001 after he had resigned from the IPS. He later quit the company and rejoined the Indian Police Service.

According to the CBI, iSec, in conspiracy with other accused persons illegally intercepted MTNL lines at the NSE between 2009 and 2017 and recorded calls by various exchange officials.

It has been alleged that the telephone monitoring was carried out by iSec without taking permission of the competent authority as required under the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act and also without the knowledge or consent of the NSE employees.

The ED alleged the revenue of Rs 4.54 crore generated by iSEC for providing the services constituted the "proceeds of crime" under the PMLA.

Pandey was arrested by the ED on July 19 last year and subsequently sent to judicial custody.

While granting him bail, the high court had directed Pandey to join investigation whenever asked to, appear before the trial court when the case is taken up, and keep his mobile number switched on at all times.

It had also asked him to not leave the country during the bail period and surrender his passport, besides directing him to not communicate with, or come into contact with any of the prosecution witnesses or tamper with the evidence of the case.

Former NSE chief Chitra Ramkrishna is among the accused in the case.

08 May 2023