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Unitech Scam: SC Orders Probe By Delhi CP On Conduct Of Tihar Jail Officials, Calls Them 'Shameless'

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, which directed that both Sanjay and Ajay Chandra be shifted out of Tihar Jail to Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail and Taloja Central Jail immediately, said that they be lodged separately in the two jails.

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The Supreme Court on August 26 ordered an immediate inquiry by the Delhi Police Commissioner into the conduct of Tihar Jail's "absolutely shameless" officials for conniving with ex-Unitech promoters Sanjay Chandra and Ajay Chandra in undermining its authority. The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which has been investigating money laundering charges against the Chandras and Unitech Ltd, said in its two status reports that both the brothers rendered the entire judicial custody meaningless as they have been freely communicating, instructing their officials and disposing of properties in real time from inside the jail in connivance with the prison staff. 

A bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and M.R. Shah, which directed that both Sanjay and Ajay Chandra be shifted out of Tihar Jail to Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail and Taloja Central Jail immediately, said that they be lodged separately in the two jails. The top court said a copy of the order shall be communicated by the registrar judicial to the DGP, Maharashtra, so that necessary arrangement can be made immediately for housing the accused in those jails.

During the hearing, the Bench told Additional Solicitor General Madhavi Divan, appearing for ED, that Tihar jail officials have actively connived with the accused to flout the orders of this court. "All we have to say is that Tihar Jail staffs are shameless. Can you imagine it is happening right in the Centre and in the capital city? We have lost all faith in the Tihar Jail authorities. They are defeating our orders by sitting in the capital city. We will certainly take them to task but we will first shift the accused from this jail,” the bench said.

The top court said the two reports of the ED have raised some serious and disturbing issues for its consideration and it will be dealt with accordingly. The top court noted that the ED has written a letter to Delhi Police Commissioner on August 16, which contains specific details of the manner in which premises of Tihar Central Jail has been used for engaging in illegal activities by flouting the jail manual, making efforts to dissipate the proceeds of crime, influencing witnesses and attempting to derail the investigation.

It directed that commissioner to personally hold an inquiry about the conduct of Tihar Jail staff with regard to Chandras and submit the report to the court within four weeks. The Bench said the contents of the ED's letter to Delhi CP raise serious issues and what is of concern to the court in particular is that its effort and jurisdiction is sought to be undermined in complicity with the jail staff, if the contents of the letter are true. The top court said the ED's investigation should be done expeditiously as it is proceeding at a tardy pace and a report be submitted in four weeks.

It directed that video conferencing facilities shall be made available in both the jails to enable the presence of the brothers in court proceedings in Delhi and other places. Earlier in the day, the ED has made a startling revelation, saying it has 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.

Divan said the Chandras have deputed their officials outside the jail to communicate their instructions to the outside world. During one of our search and seizure operations, we have unearthed a secret underground office in South Delhi, which is being used by Ramesh Chandra and visited by his sons when they are out on parole or bail, he said.

"We have recovered hundreds of original sale deeds from that office, hundreds of digital signatures and several computers which contain sensitive data with regard to their properties in India and abroad, Divan told the Bench. She said the probe agency has provisionally attached Unitech Ltd properties worth Rs 600 crore both in India and abroad and has found a very intricate web of money trail through shell companies and the properties are being disposed of in real time, which is creating problem in the probe.

They (Chandras) have been doing business from inside the jail premises. They have rendered the entire judicial custody otiose. They are freely communicating and passing on instructions with the help of people deputed outside the jail premises. ED has found that they have even tried to influence a dummy director when being interrogated by the agency, Divan said. On June 4, the top court had granted 15-day interim bail to Sanjay Chandra to attend the last rites of his father-in-law, after which he had surrendered. Both Sanjay and Ajay Chandra are in jail since August 2017 for allegedly siphoning home buyers' money. The top court in its October 2017 order had asked them to deposit Rs 750 crore with the apex court registry by December 31, 2017.

The Chandras have claimed that they complied with the court's conditions and they have deposited an amount in excess of Rs 750 crore and therefore they are granted regular bail. The matter pertains to a criminal case which started with one complaint lodged in 2015 and was later joined by 173 other home buyers of Unitech projects -- Wild Flower Country and Anthea Project -- situated in Gurugram.