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Cop exceeded authority in issuing travel letter for Wadhawans: Probe

The report, which was submitted by Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik Saturday, also says that if the government accepts Gupta's explanation, it should ask him "to be careful" in future and check the background of those seeking his help.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai | Published: April 27, 2020 3:50:51 am
coronavirus, coronavirus in maharashtra, india lockdown, yes bank fraud, dhfl promoters, maharshhtra goverment probe, maharashtra principal secretary probe, wadhwan brothersprobe, cbi, indian express news On Sunday, the CBI took the Wadhawan brothers in custody — for alleged fraud linked to loans obtained from Yes Bank (File)

THE PROBE ordered by the Maharashtra government against its Principal Secretary (Home) Amitabh Gupta for issuing a letter allowing DHFL promoters Dheeraj Wadhawan and Kapil Wadhawan to travel during the lockdown has concluded that while the IPS officer exceeded his jurisdiction, he has sought to justify the move on humanitarian grounds, The Indian Express has learnt.

The report, which was submitted by Additional Chief Secretary (Finance) Manoj Saunik Saturday, also says that if the government accepts Gupta’s explanation, it should ask him “to be careful” in future and check the background of those seeking his help.

On Sunday, the CBI took the Wadhawan brothers in custody — for alleged fraud linked to loans obtained from Yes Bank — after the end of their 14-day quarantine period following the journey.

Facing non-bailable warrants, the Wadhawans are being probed by the CBI and the ED on charges linked to the alleged multicrore Yes Bank scam.

Gupta was sent on leave on April 9 for allowing the Wadhawan brothers, and 21 others, to travel from Khandala to Mahabaleshwar. The Satara police had also registered an FIR against the 23 for violating the lockdown.

The probe, which was also asked to look into whether there were any previous dealings between Gupta and the Wadhawans, and whether the travel letter was issued with any “mala fide intention”, says that a “forensic investigation” by an investigative agency is needed look into these charges.

But the report indicates that it did not appear that Gupta gave the letter to help the Wadhawans evade the law, sources said, adding that this observation is likely to count in the officer’s favour.

In a Facebook Live video Sunday, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said that the report has cited Gupta as saying that he had given the letter to the Wadhawans himself and was not pressured by anyone to do so. “The CM and I will look through the file and take a decision on the report. Eventually, we will also make the report public,” Deshmukh said.

Claiming that “many people” had tried to politicise the issue, Deshmukh said: “…you have senior politicians who have led the state trying to politicise this issue, which is very disappointing.”

Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had earlier hit out at the Maharashtra government over the lockdown “violation” by the Wadhawans and asked if there was no restriction for the “mighty and rich” in the state.

Sources said Gupta, a 1992-batch officer, stated in his plea before the probe that in the aftermath of the lockdown, a lot of people were caught off guard, including medical patients, migrants and tourists, among others. “He said that many people in the government did intervene on humanitarian grounds to mitigate the circumstances of these people,” sources said.

According to sources, Gupta said that apart from the Wadhawans, he had also intervened in other similar cases. They said the official also submitted that he had given an open letter “to whoever it may concern” and that it was not binding. “He argued that, for example, the Satara police did not accept the letter,” sources said.

Referring to the Wadhawans, sources said, Gupta submitted that they were stranded in rented accommodation in Khandala and wanted to return to their home in Mahabaleshwar, both locations within the state. “He accepted that he did issue the letter and mentioned the circumstances, with supporting documents,” the official said.

Sources said when Gupta was asked about the jurisdiction or authority under which he had issued the letter, the officer acknowledged that he did not have such authority. “Hence, the report says he didn’t have the jurisdiction and had exceeded it prima facie on compassionate grounds,” they said.

On Sunday, referring to the CBI move, Deshmukh tweeted: “A CBI team has taken both Kapil and Dhiraj Wadhawan into custody. Satara police has given them all required assistance and an escort vehicle with 1 +3 (one office and three personnel) guard upto Mumbai on a written request. The arrest procedures on going on. #LawEqualForAll”

In a statement, the CBI confirmed the arrest from Mahabaleshwar and said “both the accused will be produced before the Special CBI Court at Mumbai”.

On Saturday, the special court vacated a stay granted on execution of the non-bailable.

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