The Supreme Court Wednesday directed a full-fledged probe into the collusion of Tihar Jail officials with Unitech’s imprisoned ex-promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra, based on Delhi Police Commissioner Rakesh Asthana’s report filed in a sealed cover.
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah directed registration of criminal cases against Tihar Jail officials and other unknown persons under relevant provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code against those involved in collusion on the basis of the report.
It also directed suspension of Tihar Jail officials, pending proceedings against whom cases will be lodged as per the report, following ED’s disclosure that the Chandra brothers were conducting business from prison.
The top court further directed the Home Ministry to comply with Asthana’s suggestions in the report on enhancing prison management and allowed a copy to be shared with the ministry for for necessary compliance of directions.
Besides, the court also took on record reports filed in sealed cover by Enforcement Directorate (ED), Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) and Delhi Police, and listed the matter for further hearing on October 21.
On August 26, the apex court had directed that the Chandra brothers be shifted from Tihar Jail in the national capital to Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail and Taloja prison in Maharashtra after the ED had said that they were conducting business from the premises in connivance with the staff.
The top court, which then perused two status reports of the ED, had said Tihar Jail Superintendent and other staff are “absolutely shameless” for conniving with the Chandra brothers to flout the court orders and undermine its jurisdiction. Pursuant to the direction of the top court, the Chandra brothers were shifted to jails in Mumbai.
The two ED reports have raised some “serious and disturbing” issues for consideration and will be dealt with accordingly, the top court had said.
It had directed the Delhi Police Commissioner to personally hold inquiry forthwith about the conduct of the Tihar Jail staff with regard to the Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks.
The ED had made a startling revelation that it had unearthed a “secret underground office” here which was being operated by erstwhile Unitech founder Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons Sanjay and Ajay when on parole or bail.
The ED, which has been investigating money laundering charges against the Chandras and realty firm 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.
Besides ED and SFIO, Economic Offence Wing of Delhi Police is also conducting investigation into the affairs of the Unitech Group and business transactions of erstwhile promoters of the real estate company.
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 ₹ 750 crore with the apex court registry by December 31, 2017.
The brothers have claimed that they complied with the court’s conditions and they have deposited an amount in excess of ₹ 750 crore and, therefore, they are granted bail.