Supreme Court declines to consider K Kavitha’s bail plea

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna, MM Sundresh, and Bela M Trivedi emphasised that trial court should be the first to hear any bail request
Supreme Court declines to consider K Kavitha’s bail plea
Anjali Raj / Jaano Junction

The Supreme Court should not entertain a bail plea directly just because the petitioner happens to be a political person or can afford to come straight to it, a special bench in the apex court said on Friday while declining to consider Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) MLC K Kavitha’s bail petition in a money laundering case related to Delhi’s controversial 2021-22 excise policy.

The bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna, MM Sundresh, and Bela M Trivedi emphasised that the trial court should be the first to hear any bail request, and asked Kavitha to seek her remedy from the first tier of judicial hierarchy.

“We are very clear that merely because someone is a political person or that he or she can come directly to the Supreme Court, we could bypass the procedure. We have to be uniform in our practice. Everyone has to go through the trial court first,” the bench told senior counsel Kapil Sibal, who represented the BRS leader.

While Sibal commenced his arguments by seeking an urgent intervention of the court since several Opposition leaders were being arrested, the court said that it would have to follow the law.

“Please, don’t make it a political platform...What you are asking us to do is not possible. You are asking us to directly entertain a petition under Article 32 [a writ directly before the top court] just because that person can come to the Supreme Court. It has to be uniform,” it said.

Dismayed, Sibal remarked: “When the history of this court will be written, this will not be in gold.” The bench responded: “It’s okay, we will see. We have to act uniform.”

The bench disposed of Kavitha’s bail plea even as it issued notice to the Centre and Enforcement Directorate (ED) on a challenge to certain provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) relating to the powers of the federal agency to issue summons and make arrests. A bunch of similar petitions are pending before the court.

Kavitha was arrested by ED on March 15 in Hyderabad and was later brought to Delhi. She was arrested after a day-long questioning followed by a raid at her residence. On March 16, Delhi’s Rouse Avenue Court sent Kavitha to custodial remand until March 23.

Kavitha, who is former Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s daughter, was the third high-profile leader to be arrested in the case after the former Delhi deputy CM Manish Sisodia and Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh — both senior AAP leaders — were arrested at different points last year. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was also arrested in the case on Thursday night.

The Delhi government’s 2021-22 excise policy aimed to revitalise the city’s flagging liquor business by replacing a sales-volume-based regime with a license fee for traders, and promised swankier stores and a better customer experience.

It, however, came to an abrupt end after Delhi’s lieutenant governor VK Saxena recommended a probe into alleged irregularities in the regime. This resulted in the policy being scrapped and replaced by the previous policy.

Kavitha has not been named as an accused in any of the six charge sheets ED has filed in the case since November 2022. However, in court documents, ED has referred to her as a key person in irregularities surrounding the excise policy.

ED’s primary allegation against Kavitha is that she was part of a cartel known allegedly as the “South Group”, which paid ₹100 crore in kickbacks to AAP leaders, in exchange for being assigned nine retail zones under the Delhi excise policy. The other members of this group, according to ED, were YSR Congress MP Magunta Srinivasulu Reddy, his son Raghav Magunta, Sarath Reddy (promoter of Aurobindo Group), and Delhi businessman Sameer Mahendru.

ED has alleged that Kavitha was in touch with the AAP’s then communication in-charge Vijay Nair. Citing her former chartered accountant Butchibabu Gorantla’s statement recorded before it in February last year, ED has claimed she was part of a conspiracy to pay kickbacks to AAP leaders to get retail liquor business in Delhi.

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Supreme Court declines to consider K Kavitha’s bail plea

She is under the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)’s scanner as well. The agency is conducting a parallel corruption probe in the case and issued a summons to her last month, which she skipped, citing an exemption granted by the Supreme Court.

Kavitha has in the past maintained her innocence and accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of using ED to strong-arm the BRS.

Source: Hindustan Times

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