India’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected bail application by Delhi’s former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, who has been in custody for eight months awaiting trial over allegations of money laundering in a corruption case centred on the city's now-scrapped liquor policy.
Mr Sisodia was arrested in February over allegations that he received money from companies to pass a new liquor policy for the capital.
He is being kept at the capital's high-security Tihar Jail and is being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Directorate of Enforcement, the organisation tasked with investigating financial crimes.
Mr Sisodia's bail application was considered for several weeks by the nation's top court.
The bench, consisting of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice SVN Bhatti, rejected the application and said that a money trail of 3.38 billion rupees ($40 million) has been tentatively established in the case.
“Legal questions have been answered in a limited way. In the analysis, there are certain aspects, which we said are doubtful. But one aspect, with regard to the transfer of money, [3.38 billion rupees], is tentatively established. We have therefore dismissed the application for bail,” Justice Khanna said.
Justice Khanna ordered that the trial be completed within six months and said that Mr Sisodia could apply for bail again in three months if the trial process proceeds “sloppily or slowly”.
The bench had earlier told the prosecution that if the alleged funds offered to allegedly steer policy were not part of the “predicate offence”, it would be difficult to prove the money laundering case against Mr Sisodia.
It had also told the CBI that the case could not go on based on assumptions of bribes being paid.
The CBI had filed a case against the minister and other state government employees, including private alcohol company executives in August last year. It also raided Mr Sisodia's residence and about 30 other venues.
The proposed privatisation was meant to increase revenue and eliminate the liquor black market, by providing licenses to private companies through open bidding for sales.
However, it was cancelled by the government after the allegations emerged, with the majority of the 849 private liquor stores closing. The Delhi government then reopened state-run stores.
Mr Sisodia's party, the Aam Aadmi Party, has accused Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party of conducting a witch hunt against its leaders and “crushing” India's democratic system. Mr Sisodia is the second Delhi minister to be arrested after Satyendar Jain was arrested on money laundering charges in May last year.