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The government today asserted in the Delhi High court that controversial businessman Moin Akhtar Qureshi's questioning of his arrest was an "abuse" of the legal process as there were serious charges of hawala transactions against him.
The government refuted the allegations of the meat exporter that he was unauthorisedly detained by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case saying he was arrested under statutory provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
It sought dismissal of his habeas corpus plea before a bench of justices Siddharth Mridul and Nazmi Waziri saying he was not unauthorisedly deprived of his personal liberty and remanded to ED custody by a competent trial court.
A habeas corpus plea is a petition which is filed to ensure a person under arrest is brought before a court which will determine whether the detention is legal.
Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre and ED, argued that under the garb of habeas corpus, Qureshi was challenging the remand order passed by a trial court and seeking quashing of FIR.
"It is not unauthorisedly depriving personal liberty of a person. He was arrested after using the statutory provision under the PMLA. There are serious allegations of hawala transactions against him.
"Its an abuse of the process of law. When there is an arrest memo, its not unauthorised detention," the ASG and central government standing counsel Anil Soni contended.
The bench said it is a constitutional imperative that when a person is arrested, he is informed of ground of arrest.
"We want to know what is the judicial view on the expression 'grounds of arrest' and what would consist informing a person of grounds of arrest.
"This is what concerns us. It is only informing him by showing the grounds or is it by giving a copy of it. Is it sufficient to only inform him in order to comply with the constitutional imperative," the bench said.
On being asked by the bench whether Qureshi was informed about the grounds of arrest and in what manner, Mehta replied in affirmative and said he was informed by showing the grounds. He has also put his signatures on that document.
Advocate R K Handoo, appearing for Qureshi, maintained that he was not informed about the grounds of arrest and also sought interim bail for his client.
The submission of Centre opposing the interim bail found support from the bench, which said his regular bail plea was pending before the trial court and he cannot seek two reliefs from two courts simultaneously.
To this, Qureshi's counsel submitted that his regular bail plea before the trial court shall not be pressed till the next date of hearing here.
The court granted time to the counsel to enable him examine the law on the issue of informing a person of grounds of arrest and posted the matter for October 12.
The Centre, in its counter affidavit opposing Qureshi's petition, said it is a settled law that a writ habeas corpus cannot be granted when a person is committed to jail custody by the competent court by an order.
The bench had earlier asked the Centre to inform it whether the messages sent on BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) can be read as evidence after the Supreme Court's judgement declaring the right to privacy a fundamental right.
According to the ED, Qureshi was arrested on the basis of BBM messages exchanged between him, former CBI chief A P Singh and several persons accused in other criminal cases.
Qureshi was arrested on August 25 and sent to ED custody by the trial court the next day for thorough probe in the case against him and others. He is presently in judicial custody.
The agency had claimed that "the witnesses have confirmed in their statements that they have delivered crores of rupees for Qureshi and his associates through his employees and one of the witnesses has stated that nearly Rs 1.75 crore have been exported by the accused from him and his friend in lieu of the help provided to him in a CBI case."
Qureshi has been questioned several times in the past by ED which is probing his role following the registration of two FIRs under the PMLA, it has said, adding that he was arrested in connection with offence alleged in the last FIR in which former CBI chief Singh has also been named.
The earlier PMLA case against Qureshi was lodged by the ED in 2015, based on an I-T prosecution complaint, it said.