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Statutory Bail Granted to Kashmiri Separatist Leader Shabir Shah in PMLA case

Delhi’s Patiala House Court has granted statutory bail to Kashmiri separatist leader Shabir Ahmad Shah in a money laundering case under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Despite this, Shah will remain in custody due to other pending cases against him. He was arrested in 2017 in this case and sought bail on the grounds that he has served more than half of the maximum sentence for an offence under PMLA.

Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Dheeraj Mor granted Shah bail under Section 436A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) on the condition of furnishing a personal bond of Rs one lakh and one surety bond of the same amount. Several conditions were imposed, including that Shah cannot leave the country without prior court permission.

While granting bail, the court referenced the Supreme Court’s judgement in the Vijay Madanlal Chaudhary case. ASJ Mor highlighted that Shah is not required to satisfy the mandatory twin conditions for bail under Section 45 PMLA because he has been in custody for six years and ten months, significantly more than half of the seven-year maximum sentence.

The court noted that Shah’s maximum seven-year sentence would conclude in approximately one and a half months if his bail application failed. The court acknowledged that Shah is in custody for other serious unrelated cases but stated that these should not influence the decision on the present statutory bail application, particularly since Shah has not been convicted in those cases.

The court observed that co-accused Mohd. Aslam Wani had been acquitted in all predicate offences except one under the Arms Act. An application for regular bail under Section 436A CrPC was filed on Shah’s behalf, arguing that he had already served more than half of the maximum punishment for money laundering offences under the PMLA.

Shah’s advocates, Prashant Prakash and Qausar Khan, emphasized that Shah had been in custody since July 26, 2017, and would complete the full seven-year sentence as an under-trial by July 25, 2024. They contended that, per the Vijay Madanlal Chaudhary judgement, Shah did not need to meet the mandatory twin conditions under Section 45 PMLA for bail under Section 436A CrPC.

However, the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) for the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Advocate N.K. Matta, opposed the bail plea, arguing that the allegations against Shah were grave and serious, involving severe punishment. Matta asserted that Shah might flee the country if released on bail, considering his previous conduct and involvement in generating significant proceeds from crime and terror financing activities.

The court ultimately granted Shah bail, acknowledging the gravity of the charges but adhering to legal provisions under Section 436A CrPC, considering Shah’s prolonged detention. However, due to pending cases, Shah’s release is not expected before July 24, 2024, when his maximum sentence in the current case concludes.

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