The law takes its course — and when power shifts, it also shapes that course. So three months since the new alliance of the Eknath Shinde Shiv Sena faction and the BJP came to power in Maharashtra, this has been evident in cases lodged by the previous MVA government mainly against BJP leaders.
The Indian Express tracked nine such key cases, and found that eight of them are now on the backburner for reasons ranging from the CBI being called in to a change in prosecutor or just lack of evidence.
The ninth case relates to alleged unauthorised construction at Union Minister Narayan Rane’s bungalow in Juhu — last month, the Supreme Court stepped in and allowed the BMC to demolish illegal portions if the property owners failed to do so within three months.
When asked about the change of stand in these cases, from the death of MP Mohan
Delkar to extortion allegations against BJP leaders, there was no official comment. But a senior official from the state’s Home Department said: “The cases have been proceeded with as per the available evidence and proper procedure.”
Case: On March 9, 2021, the Mumbai Police booked nine persons, including Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH) Administrator Praful Khoda Patel, who was former MoS for Home in BJP-ruled Gujarat, under IPC sections related to abetment to suicide, criminal intimidation and criminal conspiracy, and provisions of the SC/ST Act over the death of DNH MP Mohan Delkar. The case was based on a complaint lodged by the MP’s family alleging that he had been under pressure from the DNH administration for a year leading to his death.
Status: On September 8, 2022, the Bombay High Court allowed pleas by the nine — the others were mainly officials and police officers — and quashed the FIR. It said this was a fit case for the court to exercise its power to prevent abuse of process of law. Under the MVA, the Mumbai Police had opposed the plea seeking quashing of FIR and the judgment was reserved on July 5. But once it was quashed, the prosecutor representing Mumbai Police said any move to appeal the verdict has not been conveyed by the state government yet.
Case: On April 7, 2022, the Mumbai Police booked BJP leader Kirit Somaiya and his son Neil in connection with a case of alleged swindling of funds amounting to Rs 57 crore from a donation drive that started in 2013 for the restoration of India’s first aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. On April 10, the police opposed the anticipatory bail application of the two.
Status: On August 10, the Mumbai Police, in a turnaround, submitted to the Bombay High Court that there was not enough evidence against Somaiya and his son. On the same day, the High Court confirmed and made absolute the interim protection from arrest to Somaiya and Neil.
Case: On June 1, 2022, the Mumbai Police lodged a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against Jitendra Navlani, a builder and bar owner in Mumbai, for his alleged links to an extortion bid by some Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials. On April 5, the police formed an SIT even as Sanjay Raut, MP with the Shiv Sena that was in power then, alleged Navlani’s links to BJP leaders.
Status: On July 6, days after the new government took charge, the SIT told the Bombay High Court that it had closed the PE against Navlani on the grounds that no truth was found in the allegations.
Case: On March 26, 2021, the Mumbai Police registered an FIR against unknown persons under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) after then Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis alleged lobbying by IPS officers for postings in exchange for money with politicians in the then MVA government. Fadnavis claimed to have 6.3 GB worth of data of call records in which the names of several police officers were discussed.
Status: On July 22 this year, the new government directed the police to transfer the investigation from the State Intelligence Department (SID) to the CBI.
Case: On January 4, 2021, the Mumbai Police booked BJP leader Girish Mahajan and 28 others in a case of extortion and criminal conspiracy related to one of the directors of the Jilha Maratha Vidyaprasarak Sahakari Samaaj, a cooperative educational institute in Jalgaon, over taking control of its governing body.
Status: On July 22 this year, the new government transferred the case to the CBI.
Case: On June 1, 2022, the Mumbai Police Economic Offences Wing (EOW) booked BJP leader Mohit Kamboj and two others for allegedly causing losses of over Rs 52 crore to lndian Overseas Bank.
Status: On June 1, Kamboj filed an anticipatory bail application and was granted interim relief by the court. On July 19, after the change in government, the special public prosecutor appointed by the previous government, Pradip Gharat, was removed. Gharat was also removed from other cases, including one against Union Minister Narayan Rane’s son Nitesh Rane on charges of alleged attempt to murder, and the alleged cheating case against the Somaiyas. On July 17, Kamboj approached the court stating that he wanted to withdraw the pre-arrest bail application, and that the matter had been “settled”. On July 17, the court disposed of the application. No fresh move has been made by the state in the case.
Case: The case relates to an extortion complaint filed by a Mumbai businessman stating that money was demanded from him with the threat of a false case.
Status: On March 24, 2022, the Supreme Court transferred all the cases against Param Bir Singh to the CBI. No chargesheet or closure report has been filed. In one case in Mumbai, where a chargesheet was filed against Singh’s co-accused, including two police officials, the CBI on August 3 moved to keep the trial in abeyance seeking access to documents from the CID previously investigating the case. The CBI is in the process of verifying the documents.
Case: In February and March this year, the BMC issued notices to a firm owned by Union Minister Narayan Rane and his family citing unauthorised alterations in their eight-storey Juhu bungalow and asking why they should not be demolished. Rane’s firm approached the Bombay High Court.
Status: On September 20, ruling on a plea from Rane, the Bombay High Court ordered the demolition of the unauthorised portions. The court reprimanded the BMC for its “inconsistent stand” — mainly for giving an NoC on a second application filed by Rane on July 11. It noted that the civic body had on June 3 rejected the first application from Rane, and that the decision was upheld by the High Court. On September 26, the Supreme Court dismissed a plea by Rane’s firm challenging the High Court order and granted three months to the firm to demolish the structures while allowing the BMC to take action as per law later.
Case: On March 14, 2022, the Mumbai Police registered an FIR against BJP leader Pravin Darekar based on a complaint by AAP leader Dhananjay Shinde. Darekar was accused of defrauding the state government and Mumbai District Central Cooperative Bank by illegally contesting the bank’s election for the post of Director under the labour category.
Status: On March 16, Darekar, then Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council, filed a plea in the Bombay High Court seeking to quash the FIR. On April 12, he was granted pre-arrest bail after the High Court observed that the case is based on documentary evidence within public domain, which cannot be tampered with. The court held Darekar’s custodial interrogation was not required for probe and granted him relief. On April 16, the court had adjourned his plea seeking quashing of FIR to June 16 — but it was not heard that day. The plea has not since come up for hearing before the court. In August, Darekar was unanimously elected as the bank’s president.