The Plea was rejected on the ground that sufficient time needs to be provided to Devas CEO since the summons was served.
A Special Court in Bengaluru has rejected a plea by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for a proclamation order against Devas Multimedia in a money laundering case.
Enforcement Directorate, India’s Economic Intelligence Agency, sought a proclamation order against Ramchandran Vishwanathan in order to compel him to present before the Trial Court in a case instituted in 2018 against him and 6 others.
The Court rejected the plea on the ground that sufficient time was not provided to the Devas CEO since the summons was served in the United States.
“Even though the Accused no. 2 has not appeared before the Court, the Court cannot sacrifice procedure to meet the urgency of prosecution. When the statute has provided protection to the accused, the same must be followed”, the Court stated.
A Proclamation Order is issued by the Court under Section 82 of the Criminal Procedure Code when it has reason to believe that the accused is absconding and therefore, the warrant cannot be executed. Such proclamation requires the person to appear before the Court at a specific place and a specific time within 30 days.
Under Section 82(4) of the Criminal Procedure Code 1973, the Court can declare a person as a “Proclaimed Offender” who has not appeared at a place and time specified by the Court via a proclamation issued under Section 82(1) of CrPC.
The Money Laundering Case
ED had filed a money laundering case against 10 individuals and entities accusing them of money laundering. It filed the chargesheet in the case in 2018 under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act against Vishwanathan, other senior personnels of Devas, three subsidiaries of Devas, and the former executive director of Antrix.
The chargesheet alleges that Devas Multimedia has transferred 85% of Rs. 579 crore of foreign funds received through the 2005 Contract Deal.
The 2005 Contract Deal
Devas Multimedia is a telecom firm. It signed a contract in 2005 with Antrix, ISRO’s commercial arm, wherein Two satellites had to be built and launched, and the corresponding S-Band Satellite spectrum to be leased to Devas.
In a leaked draft CAG Report, some irregularities regarding financial mismanagement were pointed out. However, in the final report, no such evidence surfaced. Despite that, the deal was canceled in 2011.
In light of this, Arbitration was initiated before the ICC Tribunal which decided an award in favor of Devas Multimedia. The award is still under challenge before the Delhi High Court.
Earlier this year, Devas Shareholders also secured an order from a Canadian court allowing seizure of $30 million worth of properties of Air India and Airport Authority of India.