The Enforcement Directorate on Wednesday told the Supreme Court that it needs custodial interrogation of ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra, who are currently lodged in two separate jails of Mumbai, and sought clarification of an apex court order which is coming in its way.
The probe agency which is investigating money laundering charges against the ex-promoters said that in view of new evidence which has been found against the Chandra brothers, it needs to confront them and if required formally arrest them.
A bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah asked Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan to file a formal application specifying as to what it wants to do with their custody by next week and it will pass the order.
Divan, appearing for the ED said that the agency has moved the Patiala House Court seeking production of accused Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra, and two orders were passed by the court on November 2 and 12 and they were required to be produced by Mumbai jail authorities on Wednesday.
She said that Mumbai jail authorities have refused to produce the two accused before the Patiala House Court here on the ground that the top court had on August 26, directed the jail authorities to enable them to attend the court proceedings through video conferencing.
“I need clarification of that order as Mumbai jail authorities are not producing them. The agency needs to confront them with the massive evidences which they have got against them and we may seek their custodial interrogation,” Divan said.
The bench said that it has received a letter from Jail Superintendent in Mumbai about the order passed by Patiala House Court here and he has also sought clarification.
The bench said that Chandras can be produced before the magistrate court virtually but as far as custodial interrogation is required, the agency can file an appropriate application by November 24 and it can pass orders concerning the same.
Divan said that it is very difficult to confront the accused with evidence and hence their physical presence is required.
The bench asked Divan to inform the magistrate’s court which has passed the two orders requiring their production that the issue is pending before the top court.
On November 10, the top court had said that it is a “sorry state of affairs” in Tihar Jail which has become a den of criminals and murders are happening there, and had directed the Home Ministry to take immediate steps on prison reforms and enhance management.
The apex court had also expressed annoyance over the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) not filing an action plan and report on steps taken on the suggestions given by Delhi Commissioner of Police Rakesh Asthana.
The top court was earlier informed by Delhi Police that it has registered an FIR under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC against 37 persons about collusion with realty firm Unitech’s imprisoned ex-promoters Sanjay and Ajay Chandra.
The ED had made a startling revelation recently 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.
Both Sanjay and Ajay who are in jail since August 2017 are accused of allegedly siphoning home buyers’ money.
On October 6, the top court had directed suspension of Tihar Jail officials, registration of the case against them, and full-fledged probe into their collusion with Chandra brothers, based on Asthana’s report.
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 had then perused two status reports of the ED, said that 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.
Under the direction of the top court, the Chandra brothers were shifted to jails in Mumbai.
It had directed the Delhi Police Commissioner to personally hold inquiry forthwith about the conduct of the Tihar Jail staff concerning the Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks.
The ED and SFIO, Economic Offence Wing of Delhi Police is also investigating the affairs of the Unitech Group and business transactions of erstwhile promoters of the real estate company.