Observing that the growing pandemic of Covid-19 “cannot be made a smokescreen to evade custodial interrogation”, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday rejected the pre-arrest bail plea of Dewan Housing Finance Limited (DHFL) promoters Dheeraj Wadhawan and Kapil Wadhawan in the alleged money laundering case of Yes Bank and another pertaining to two trusts of Uttar Pradesh Power Corporation Mutual Funds.
“It is an offence of money laundering which has serious ramifications and has the potential to bring the swirling economy of the entire country to a standstill,” a single-judge bench of Justice Bharati Dangre noted.
The Wadhawan brothers are accused of diverting nearly Rs 4,122 crore from the General Provident Fund (GPF) and Central Provident Fund (CPF) deposits of UP Power Corporation Limited (UPPCL) to their company. They have been also accused of fraudulently diverting nearly Rs 12, 700 crore from DHFL’s accounts to companies beneficially owned by them and further diverting those funds to other companies.
It has been also alleged that Rana Kapoor, former CEO of Yes Bank, had entered into a criminal conspiracy with the Wadhawans to extend financial help to DHFL through the Yes Bank in return for “substantial undue benefits” to himself and his family members. The DHFL promoters had moved the high court after a special court in Mumbai rejected their anticipatory bail pleas on April 28.
Senior counsels Prasad K Dhakephalkar and Amit Desai had argued that political parties attempted to gain one-upmanship over the issue of arrest of the applicants. The applicants also claimed that their 70-year-old mother suffers from health problems while Dheeraj Wadhawan had undergone angioplasty in January 2018 and was hospitalised for a long period for severe lung infection.
The counsels for the Wadhawans said, “Considering the health scenario of Dheeraj and his aged mother, the family thought it fit to travel away from Khandala and Mumbai and decided to reside at their ancestral home and this was done by them by obtaining necessary permissions.”
Opposing the pre-arrest bail pleas, Additional Solicitor General, Anil Singh, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, said, “The offence is a serious economic offence of money laundering that involves any process of or activity relating to the proceeds of crime, including concealment and possession, acquisition or use and projecting or claiming it as untainted property.”
After hearing submissions, Justice Dangre observed the applicants had claimed that custody for interrogation might expose them to the coronavirus and may prove to be more fatal in view of their health conditions. “This apprehension at the instance of the applicants being in the age group of early forties, cannot be cited against the right of the respondent to seek their custody for interrogation into a serious economic offence,” Justice Dangre said.
The HC order stated, “The procedure of law must be followed and abided by. A serious economic offence cannot wait the pandemic to recede and the projection of the applicants as ‘not being healthy’ and health being a part of Article 21 (Right to life) of the Constitution would not absolve them of being subjected to interrogation.”
It added, “Conduct of the applicants particularly on being released on bail and travelling to an obscure place like Mahabaleshwar, though their submission that it is with permission raises more questions to be answered.”
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