The Delhi High Court on Monday refused to quash an Enforcement Directorate money laundering case against media baron Raghav Bahl, saying the plea was ”premature”.
The court also rejected Bahl’s challenge to the Look Out Circular (LOC) against him, observing the issue of generation of ”proceeds of crime” was being investigated.
The court, however, said the petitioner’s liberty to travel abroad in genuine circumstances cannot be curtailed and clarified his plea seeking permission to undertake such travel will be decided by the courts concerned whenever filed.
The ED case against the petitioner arises from a complaint by the Income Tax (IT) Department and concerns the alleged laundering of funds to purchase an alleged undisclosed asset in London.
”I am of the view that the petition itself is premature…There are allegations in the complaint regarding tax evasion. The allegations are yet to reach the stage of trial. Whether there is generation of proceeds of crime or not is being investigated. For aforesaid reasons, petition for relief of quashing the ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) is premature and is rejected,” said Justice Jasmeet Singh.
”The allegations against the petitioner are with regard to compromising the economic interest of India. The quashing of LOC at this stage again will be premature,” stated the judge.
The court noted that the Supreme Court has said in a case that mere recording of ECIR does not make a person an accused and that petitioner has undertaken to join the investigation.
The petitioner’s Counsel sought to quash the ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) and LOC on the ground that there were no proceeds of crime or illegal money in the case and that there could also be no allegations of tax evasion.
TheED opposed the plea and submitted that there were allegations of violation of Black Money Act and attempt to evade tax.
It was also stated that the ECIR cannot be quashed at the stage of summons and that the Allahabad High Court has ruled that there was a prima facie to proceed against the petitioner under the black money law and an appeal against the decision has been dismissed by the Supreme Court.
The I-T Department had earlier initiated proceedings against the petitioner under the Black Money (Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets) and Imposition of Tax Act of 2015 for alleged irregularities in the returns filed for the assessment year (AY) 2018-2019.
In his petition, Raghav Bahl had claimed that since he has ”done no wrong”, the continuation of the process of inquiry under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act of 2002 ”without having any subsisting basis in fact or law” has a ”deleterious effect” on his life, business, and reputation.
On December 3, 2021, the high court had sought response from ED on Bahl’s petition to quash a money laundering case against him but refused to grant an interim relief of no coercive action.