The Bombay High Court has declined to allow beleaguered NCP leader Chhagan Bhujbal, who is facing charges in a money laundering case, to withdraw his petition challenging provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) following opposition by Enforcement Directorate. Bhujbal had urged the High Court to allow him to withdraw his petition as he wanted to file a fresh plea soon. A vacation bench of Justice M S Karnik observed during the hearing on Wednesday that a petition cannot be allowed to be withdrawn without the consent of both the sides. “In this case, ED has vehemently opposed the plea of the petitioner to withdraw the petition in order to enable him file a fresh petition. So I am not inclined to allow the application (Bhujbal) to withdraw his plea,” the Judge said.
Bhujbal, through his lawyer Vikram Chaudhary, had challenged sections 19 and 45 of PMLA. Section 19 empowers ED to arrest an accused based on evidence gathered by the agency against the individual, while section 45 deals with bail of the accused. Bhujbal’s counsel urged the court to grant liberty to allow the applicant to withdraw his plea and file a fresh petition soon. However, the High Court refused after the ED objected to the plea. ED’s lawyer Hiten Venegaonkar argued that the agency welcomed the move of the accused to withdraw the petition but was opposed to his plea to file a fresh petition.
The HC also asked Bhujbal’s lawyer to approach a regular bench after the Diwali vacation and posted the matter for hearing on November 16. Bhujbal was arrested in March this year by ED in an alleged money laundering case in which the agency claimed that he had caused a loss of Rs 870 crore to the exchequer.