The Bombay High Court on Monday set aside a special court’s order that refused further Enforcement Directorate ( ED) custody of Amit Chandole, an alleged close aide of Shiv Sena MLA Pratap Sarnaik, in connection with security firm Topsgrup’s money laundering case.
A single-judge bench of Justice Prithviraj K Chavan directed the Prevention of Money Laundering Act ( PMLA) Court to rehear the ED’s remand plea seeking Chandole’s custody at 3 pm and pass a fresh order today.
The HC on Friday had reserved its order on an application moved by the ED seeking further custody of Amit Chandole.
Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, appearing for ED, said that agency was given merely three days to interrogate Chandole and a special court order denying further custody was “erroneous” and should be set aside.
However, advocate Rizwan Merchant, appearing for Chandole, said that ED had got sufficient time to interrogate him. As it couldn’t find any incriminating against him, the special court order was justified, he added.
Justice Chavan was hearing an ED’s revision application, challenging the November 29 order of a special holiday sessions judge, who rejected the agency’s request for extension of remand of Chandole.
After hearing submissions, the bench observed, “The Holiday Judge in the impugned order failed to consider the documents and the material placed by ED before him. It appears that the judge has taken a very casual and perfunctory approach by ignoring that it is not a simple crime but is so enormous and complex which requires a thorough probe and investigation by the investigating Agency in view of the provisions of PMLA.”
The Court added, “unless there is free, fair and full investigation of the crime of such a large and colossal magnitude, which could fructify only by a custodial investigation, the learned judge ought to have applied his mind while considering prayer of extending custodial interrogation…Prima facie, it appears that the proceeds of crime exchanged hands from MMRDA, Tops Group and respondent Amit Chandole.”
Justice Chavan added, “I am mindful of the fact that liberty of an individual is of paramount importance. However, at the same time, balance needs to be struck between individual’s rights as well as there should be no prejudice to the free, fair and full investigation. ”
The ED case is based on an FIR lodged on a complaint filed by a former employee of Topsgrup, Ramesh Iyer, alleging that the company had cheated the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) of Rs 175 crore. The ED has alleged that some part of the amount paid by MMRDA had gone into Chandole’s private bank accounts.
The agency told HC that on November 27, it was given Chandole’s remand till only November 29. Thereafter, its application seeking his further custody was rejected by the special court.
Singh argued that the special court order was “bad in law” and that the ED had to go through a large number of bank records, computers, proceeds of crime, data and paperwork, including from MMRDA, with whom Topsgrup allegedly had signed a contract to provide security guards.
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