New Delhi: The Supreme Court Thursday ordered the Delhi Police Commissioner to personally conduct a probe against Tihar jail officials after the Enforcement Directorate said that erstwhile Unitech promoters Ramesh Chandra and Sanjay Chandra were operating an ‘underground’ secret office in South Delhi from inside the prison.
In its status report dated 16 August, the ED, which has been investigating money laundering charges against the Chandras, stated that the office was visited by Ramesh Chandra and his sons Ajay and Sanjay when on parole and that the jail staff has been complicit in helping them communicate with people outside the premises and disposing of their properties.
The report also contains a letter issued by the Assistant Director, HIU, Enforcement Directorate to the Commissioner of Police, Delhi with details of how the Tihar jail has been misused by the accused by “engaging in illegal activities by flouting the jail manual, making transfers of assets and dissipating the proceeds of crime and influencing witnesses and attempting to derail the investigation”.
The ED also asked for a probe against jail officials who may be complicit in the violation of law.
Tihar jail authorities, however, refused to comment, saying that the matter is in court.
K.M. Nataraj, Additional Solicitor General, appearing for Delhi Police, told the court that the steps taken by the Commissioner of Police shall be placed on record.
Additional Solicitor General, Madhavi Divan, appearing for the ED, told the Supreme Court bench that ED has recovered “hundreds of original sale deeds from the office, hundreds of digital signatures and several computers which contain sensitive information regarding their properties in India and abroad”.
‘Shift promoters to Mumbai jails’
A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah said the ED’s report raises ‘serious and disturbing issues’, and directed that the Chandras be shifted from Tihar to Mumbai’s Arthur Road jail and Taloja jail in Maharashtra.
“The contents of ED’s communication dated 16 August 2021 raise serious and disturbing issues. What is of concern to the Court is that the jurisdiction of this Court is sought to be undermined in complicity with the jail staff, if the contents of the letter are true,” the court noted, directing the Commissioner of Police to conduct an immediate inquiry and submit the report within four weeks.
“The inquiry shall be conducted by the Commissioner of Police, Delhi personally and shall not be delegated to any other officer,” the order stated, observing that despite the “orders of the court, irregularities are taking place within the precincts of the Tihar Central Jail where the two accused have been lodged”.
The compliance of Tihar jail officials with accused lodged in jails and flouting of jail manuals has long been a matter of concern. The apex court had in May 2020 directed the jail authorities that the Chandras won’t be entitled to additional facilities.
A source told ThePrint, “it is known that mobile phones are often used by accused lodged in jails and manual norms are flouted. Others favours include transfer of things in and out of the premises”.
Earlier this month, the police filed an FIR against deputy superintendent of Tihar jail and five of his subordinates on the charges of murder following the death of a 29-year old gangster lodged in Tihar.
The probe against Unitech pertains to a 2015 criminal case lodged by buyers of Unitech’s Anthea Floors and Wild Flower Country projects in Gurugram. The home buyers alleged that the company didn’t return funds following delay in handing over flats and also accused them of duping people.
The Economic Offences Wing of the Delhi Police booked the Chandras 2 years later in 2017 under Indian Penal Code sections 406 (criminal breach of trust, 420 (cheating) and 120 (b) (concealing criminal offence).