THE Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted bail to former state home minister Anil Deshmukh in a money laundering case lodged by Enforcement Directorate (ED). However, Deshmukh will continue to stay in CBI custody.
A single-judge bench of Justice N J Jamadar asked Deshmukh to furnish a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh and sureties of the like amount, and also put conditions on him for attendance before the trial court and the investigating agency.
A single-judge bench of Justice N J Jamadar of the #BombayHighCourt granted bail plea to former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh in money laundering case lodged by Enforcement Directorate (ED).Deshmukh was arrested in November, last year. @IndianExpress
— Omkar Gokhale (@OmkarGokhale91) October 4, 2022
The ED had sought a stay on the operation of order for two weeks stating that the Supreme Court is shut for Dussehra holidays and will reopen Monday, October 10. Deshmukh’s lawyer opposed it and said the agency can file an appeal in the Supreme Court even during the vacation and it is not that the applicant is to come out on bail as he is in custody for a CBI case. The court said the bail order shall become effective from October 13.
Deshmukh was arrested in November last year by the ED in connection with allegations of money laundering and bribes from restaurant and bar owners.
Deshmukh had moved the high court through advocates Aniket Nikam and Inderpal Singh, after the special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court in March rejected his bail plea on the ground that there is prima facie proof to indicate that he had exercised “undue influence” over transfers and postings of police officers.
Appearing for Deshmukh, senior advocate Vikram Chaudhari sought bail citing health reasons and also had added that it was former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh on whose instructions the alleged extortion amount was collected.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh appearing for ED had, however, invoked the Supreme Court’s observation that money laundering was as serious as murder and terrorism and said the “material” against the NCP leader showed his direct involvement and criminality and therefore, he should not be granted relief.
The agency had also said that Deshmukh was not entitled to bail on medical grounds as there is no grievance that he has not been treated for his ailments.
The agency had submitted that the statements of witnesses and other evidence showed that the applicant is involved in a money laundering case. ASG Singh argued that the said statements suggested there were meetings between now dismissed police officer Sachin Waze, assistant commissioner Sanjay Patil, and Deshmukh’s private assistant Kundan Shinde, where Waze claimed to have been called to collect money from bar owners and thereafter, send it to the minister. Deshmukh contested the credibility of Waze’s statements.
The bench held that two components of credits in Trust do not form proceeds of crime and third one depends on statement on Waze’s statements and credibility of the same is questioned. It said the benefit of Proviso of section 45 of the PMLA Act is also applicable in the case.
The court noted that credibility of accusation by ED “entirely hinges” on statements of Sachin Waze. The bench held, “Chaudhari’s criticism of the credentials of Sachin Waze, in the light of the situation in which Waze finds himself, borne out by the material on record, may carry some substance. In the least, the tenure of Mr. Sachin Waze as a police officer has been controversial. He was under suspension for almost 16 years. He came to be arrested by NIA 2021 for the alleged murder of a person in connection with the occurrence of a gelatin laden SUV. His statements were recorded by ED whilst he remained in the custody of the jurisdictional court.”
Referring to Deshmukh’s ailments, the bench observed, “The material on record does indicate that the Applicant has been suffering from multiple ailments. He is 73 years of age. Few of the ailments may be classified as degenerative. The medical reports/certificates also show that the Applicant is suffering from chronic ailments, as well. In the light of the material on record, it would be audacious to observe that the Applicant is not a sick person.”
It further observed, “The Applicant appears to have roots in society. The possibility of fleeing away from justice seems remote. The apprehension on the part of the prosecution of tampering with evidence and threatening the witnesses can be taken care of by imposing appropriate conditions.”
The Court held that the statements by Param Bir Singh and Waze claiming Deshmukh took money from police officers for postings “ex-facie lack the element of certainty as to the source, time and place and “they prima facie appears to be hear-say.”
The court asked Deshmukh to remain within Greater Mumbai, in jurisdiction of special PMLA Court and that he should not tamper with the evidence and establish communication with co-accused.
According to the ED, Deshmukh’s family “laundered the tainted sum of Rs 4.18 crore and projected it as untainted by showing the same amount as received by the trust, namely Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha”.
The ED probe into Deshmukh’s financial transactions is in line with a CBI probe into former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations of corruption against the NCP leader. The CBI initiated a preliminary probe based on the April 5, 2021 high court order and registered an FIR on April 21, 2021.
Deshmukh’s lawyer said that the NCP leader has approached the special court seeking bail in connection with the CBI case and it is likely to come up for hearing this week.