SRINAGAR: Former J&K minister Choudhary Lal Singh was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday, shortly after a corruption court rejected his request for pre-arrest bail in a money laundering case, The Tribune reported.
Singh had been the subject of an inquiry related to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) concerning an educational trust operated by his wife, former legislator Kanta Andotra.
In a separate development, Kanta Andotra, Choudhary Lal Singh’s wife, and their daughter Kranti Singh were granted an extension for their interim anticipatory bail until November 30. They were instructed to cooperate with the investigators as they are being investigated for irregularities in land allocation for the education trust run by Kanta Andotra.
Earlier on the same day, the anti-corruption court in Jammu had denied Singh’s request for pre-arrest bail. Kanta Andotra and Kranti Singh, however, received relief from the court, with their interim anticipatory bail extended until November 30. The court ordered them to assist the investigators.
Special judge Bala Jyoti issued three separate orders after hearing arguments from special public prosecutor Ashwani Khajuria, representing the ED, and advocate Rajesh Kotwal representing the applicants.
On November 1, Singh, his wife, and daughter had submitted separate bail applications in court, seeking protection from arrest in connection with alleged PMLA violations. The court granted them interim bail and requested a comprehensive response from the ED.
Singh, who serves as the chairman of the Dogra Swabhiman Sangathan Party, was interrogated by the ED on Saturday and Monday. The ED had previously conducted searches in Jammu and nearby areas last month as part of its money laundering investigation into the Andotra education trust and a former government official regarding alleged irregularities in land acquisition for the trust. On October 17, the agency carried out raids at approximately eight locations in Jammu, Kathua, and Pathankot, Punjab, in connection with the case involving RB Educational Trust, its chairperson, and former revenue official Ravinder S.
This money laundering case is rooted in a CBI chargesheet from October 2021, which alleged illicit collusion in land allocation between January 4 and 7, 2011. The chargesheet did not specify the violation of the ceiling limit of 100 standard kanals as stipulated under Section 14 of the Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act, 1976, resulting in undue financial gains for the trust. As per the CBI chargesheet, the trust obtained multiple parcels of land, totaling around 329 kanals, through three gift deeds.
The judge, as per The Tribune emphasised, “Considering the gravity of the allegations and the nature of the accusation, the investigating agency should be given ample time to conduct a thorough investigation.”