The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to grant interim protection from arrest to meat exporter Moin Qureshi, and asked him to “not take the line of Vijay Mallya” in seeking protection from arrest before joining an investigation. Qureshi is under the scanner for alleged tax evasion and hawala-like dealings.
Now in Dubai, he has sought interim protection from arrest or any coercive action by Enforcement Directorate for 15 days. The ED had summoned Qureshi in relation to a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case registered last year.
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The court has now directed him to return and appear before the ED on November 22. “Do not behave in a fashion Vijay Mallya did,” Justice A K Pathak said, turning down Qureshi’s plea.
“Don’t take the line of businessman Vijay Mallya. You have to first appear for questioning. You are not in India. This shows that you do not want to appear,” the court said, adding, it was “not inclined to grant any interim order”.
The court said it was not going to restrain the agency from taking “coercive steps” against Qureshi, who recently managed to go abroad despite ED issuing a Lookout Circular (LC) against him. “You appear before them (ED). To arrest you or not is upon them… If you don’t want any coercive steps against you, then go for an anticipatory bail,” Justice Pathak said.
The court stayed till November 16 the LC issued against Qureshi by ED. Qureshi’s counsel RK Handoo had urged the court that he should be protected for at least 15 days. “I will straightway come to your (ED) office after landing in India,” Handoo said, adding that “Qureshi was subjected to extreme humiliation and ridicule in India and abroad, portraying him as an absconder.”
Qureshi’s counsel said his client should be “protected from arbitrary exercise of powers by the agencies, trampling his fundamental right to life and liberty, on contrived and false proceedings initiated against him by way of non-statutory ECIR (Enforcement Case Information Report) under PMLA, passing it as an FIR.”
To this, Justice Pathak said, “…I am giving a short date. I cannot do anything at this stage… I do not think any kind of injustice or prejudice would be caused to your client.”
The bench issued notices to Ministries of Home Affairs and Finance, ED and Foreigner Regional Registration Office, seeking replies within four weeks on Qureshi’s plea to quash the ECIR.
The bench also pulled up Qureshi for seeking quashing of the ECIR without having joined the investigation.
Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain and ED counsel Amit Mahajan too opposed the plea. “Let us file our reply, only then the court should pass any order,” Jain submitted. The bench said the matter will be taken up for further hearing on January 6.