New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday granted protection to media baron Raghav Bahl from any coercive action of the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case lodged against him.

The Delhi High Court, which on December 3 had issued notice to the ED on Bahl’s plea seeking quashing of the case, however, had refused to pass any order of interim protection to him.

Issue notice. Meanwhile, no coercive action will be taken, ordered the bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) N V Ramana on Wednesday after taking note of the submissions of senior advocate Vikas Singh who represented the case of Bahl.

The top court also ordered tagging of fresh appeal of Bahl with the pending one on the issue. A SLP (special leave petition) has been filed as the High Court did not grant me the protection, the senior counsel argued.

On December 3, the high court had granted three weeks to the ED to file its response to the petition which, besides seeking quashing of the money laundering case, has also challenged the notices issued to Bahl by the investigating officer. Would your lordship consider granting the same order of no coercive step as granted by Supreme Court (in the case concerning the substantive offence)? Bahl’s counsel had argued.

I don’t consider it, sir, the HC judge had responded and had listed for further hearing on January 27.

The ED case against the petitioner arises from a complaint by the Income Tax (I-T) Department and concerns the alleged laundering of funds to purchase an undisclosed asset in London.

The I-T Department had 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.

Bahl’s lawyer had stated that after re-filing, the income tax return for AY 2018-19 has now been cleared by the assessing authorities and therefore, the money laundering proceedings cannot be allowed to go on.

Based on black money complaint, ED proceedings commenced. Now there is no violation, there are no proceeds of crime. IT (authority) has accepted the income tax return for 2018-2019 in 2021, he had told the high court.

Bahl’s lawyer had added that while the challenge to the black money proceedings was pending before the Supreme Court, which has earlier given him protection from coercive action in that case, the ED has been issuing notices to him in connection with the money laundering case.

The petition claimed that since Bhal 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.

The Respondent has ignored this, and has issued further Summons on 16.11.2021, now against all the family members i.e. the Petitioner herein, plus the Son, Daughter & Wife of the Petitioner, to begin appearing within the next 24 hrs, it stated.

The ED had said that the issue of money laundering proceedings is not before the apex court and argued that the investigation by the agency cannot be stalled on the presumption that the Supreme Court would rule in favour of the petitioner.

The counsel for the ED had said he would file a reply on behalf of the ED and that the petitioner was only being called for an inquiry.

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