Refusing immediate relief to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Justice Prakash D Naik of the Bombay High Court held that the agency’s plea, challenging the special court order of an interim release of two persons booked for alleged money-laundering last year, ought to be heard by the bench hearing bail applications as they were released on bail bond.
In one of the first such decisions following the Supreme Court’s order upholding the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), a special court in Mumbai on August 8, had ordered the interim release of two promoters of a firm booked for alleged money-laundering, noting that proceedings under PMLA cannot continue if there is no scheduled offence. Babulal Varma and Kamalkishor Gupta were arrested in January, last year in an alleged money-laundering case against a firm named Omkar Realtors and Developers Private Limited.
On Wednesday, special counsel Hiten Venegaonkar had mentioned the central agency’s plea seeking cancellation of bail before a single-judge bench of Justice Bharati H Dangre. Justice Dangre said that HC will not intervene till the trial court is seized of the matter and decides on the same. It also asked the ED to raise its grievances before the special court.
Later on Wednesday, the agency mentioned its application challenging the August 8 order before a bench of Justice Prakash D Naik, which listed the same for hearing on Thursday. On Thursday, Senior advocate Aabad Ponda and advocate Vijay Aggarwal, representing the accused, opposed the ED’s plea stating that the accused were released from jail on furnishing the bail bond and surety.
The lawyers said while the ED had mentioned its plea before another bench on Wednesday, which orally asked it to pursue grievances before the trial court, the agency moved another application before Justice Naik’s bench, which has no assignment for bail.
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Ponda also referred to Justice Naik’s order of June 10 refusing relief to jailed NCP leader Nawab Malik in his plea challenging the special court order rejecting temporary release to vote for Rajya Sabha elections and said that even Malik was asked to move an appropriate bench with bail assignment seeking relief.
Representing ED, Venegaonkar said it had moved a plea before Justice Dangre under the impression that the accused were released on temporary bail. But the detailed court order, which concluded it was an illegal custody, was made available later and prompted the agency to seek its quashing.