A Delhi Court has dismissed the application moved by Enforcement Directorate for cancellation of bail granted to lawyer Gautam Khaitan in AgustaWestland money laudnering case.
The order was passed by Arvind Kumar, Special Judge (PC Act), Rouse Avenue Courts.
Enforcement Directorate sought cancellation of the bail which was granted in January 2015 on the ground that Khaitan had tried to “mislead the investigating agency” and “derail the investigation”.
It was stated that in 2014, Khaitan, an accused in the case, failed to recognize one Pareen Khan, however, in the year 2017-2018, he mentioned her to be known person and thereafter tried to avoid joining investigation in order to avoid confrontation with her.
The Agency further claimed that all this while, Khaitan was “contacting her regularly”, instructing her to delete the chat messages and even tutoring her for interrogation.
Khaitan, on the other hand, said that Pareen Khan was not even a witness in any complaints filed in the matter and thus there was no reason for him to influence her.
It was submitted that Pareen Khan was a client and a family friend who was disturbed after receiving summons from the Enforcement Directorate.
To arrive at its decision, the Court noted that it was not the case that Khaitan had approached the witness to influence or threaten her.
“Rather Ms. Pareen Khan, who is the family friend of accused for more than 30 years, has repeatedly contacted accused Gautam Khaitan to seek advice in this matter after she got summons from ED. Ms. Pareen Khan was very keen to know the progress of the case and ongoing investigation…
There is nothing on record to show that the accused asked the witness to destroy the evidence or tutored her rather, it was the witness who time and again insisted for his advice despite the accused’s neglectful conduct.”, the Court noted.
The Court further noted that there was no possibility of the tampering of the evidence in the matter as the same was documentary in nature and seized from the office of Khaitan.
In its order, the Court also observed that it was not clear as to how much longer would the investigation in the case continue.
“It is worthwhile recording here that investigation in the present case is going on for the last about six and half years and ED is unable to complete its investigation till date. One complaint and eight supplementary complaints have already been filed against 49 accused and there are more than 200 witnesses. It needs to be pointed out that accused has been in jail for more than three months. It is not clear as to how long the investigation of the ED will continue and trial will also consume substantial time in view of large number of accused and witnesses and voluminous documents“
Opining that considerations for cancellation of bail were different from rejection of bail, the Court concluded,
“.. overwhelming circumstances are required for cancellation of bail. The alleged act on the part of the accused are not so serious warranting cancellation of bail of the accused.”
The Court nonetheless imposed further conditions on Khaitan to avoid any chance of tampering of evidence or influencing the witnesses.
“The accused shall report in the ED office once in the week. He shall not contact with any witness of this case particularly, Ms. Pareen Khan. It is made clear that the aforesaid conduct of the accused shall be considered, also at the time of considering the request of the accused for permission to travel abroad, if made.”, it is ordered.
Senior Advocate Sidharth Luthra and Advocate Pramod Kumar Dubey appeared for Khaitan.
Special Public Prosecutor NK Matta appeared for ED.