Updated: November 7, 2021 6:48:13 pm
The Bombay High Court vacation bench on Sunday set aside a special holiday court order that had refused the Enforcement Directorate (ED) further custody of former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deskhmukh and remanded him to 14-day judicial custody in a money laundering case.
The high court has now remanded Deshmukh to ED custody till November 12 (Friday) after Deshmukh’s counsels said that he was willing to face custodial probe for nearly four days and consented that special court order be set aside.
A special holiday court in Mumbai on Saturday refused to grant the ED further custody of Deshmukh and sent the senior NCP leader to judicial custody for two weeks.
The ED moved a precipice in HC on Saturday night challenging the special court order, which was heard by a single-judge vacation bench of Justice Madhav J Jamdar on Sunday.
The ED arrested Deshmukh on Tuesday (November 2) and was granted his custody for four days, until Saturday, by a holiday court. On Saturday, special judge Prashant R Sitre rejected ED’s plea seeking another nine days of Deshmukh’s custody.
The ED probe has claimed that Deshmukh, while in office as the home minister of Maharashtra, “received illegal gratification of approximately Rs 4.7 crore in cash from various orchestra bar owners” between December 2020 and February 2021 through now-dismissed Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze.
According to the ED, Deshmukh’s family “laundered the tainted sum of Rs 4.18 crore and projected it as untainted by showing the same amount as received by the trust, namely Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha”.
The ED probe into Deshmukh’s financial transactions is in line with the CBI probe into former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations of corruption against the NCP leader. The CBI initiated a preliminary probe based on an April 5 HC order and registered FIR on April 21. Deshmukh has denied the allegations.
The ED, in its criminal revision application in HC against the special court order, stated, “The order passed by the sessions judge (holiday court) is bad in law and against the principles of natural justice and therefore in the interest of justice deserves to be set aside. The sessions judge ought to have appreciated that the investigation in cases of colossal frauds and money laundering, like the present one, cannot be expected to be completed within a short span of time.”
The agency, through additional solicitor general (ASG) Anil Singh, sought an urgent hearing and said that in the present case, only five-day custody was granted for probing into a matter ‘running into crores of rupees’ out of which two days were bank or Diwali holidays. “It is practically impossible to investigate in such a short period of time and especially in the present times when people acquainted with the facts of the case are citing reasons for investigation,” the plea stated.
Singh said that ED has urgently moved HC as by November 6 order, Deshmukh was remanded to judicial custody. This has been done amid custodial investigation and as respondent Deshmukh was giving evasive replies, further custodial investigation was essential.
Senior advocate Vikram Chaudhri and advocate Aniket Nikam for Deshmukh, on instructions, said that their client is willing to face a custodial probe for about four days. Chaudhri said that although he can raise contentions regarding the maintainability of revision application, as well as on merits of the case but on instructions, he is making such a statement that the special court order can be quashed and set aside by consent. ASG Singh sought custody till November 12.
After perusing special court order, Justice Jamdar noted: “Prima facie, there is substance in the contentions raised by ASG Singh and also contentions raised in Revision Application about the legality of the impugned order. However, as Chaudhri has made a voluntary statement on behalf of Respondent Deshmukh, I am not going into detail in the said aspects.”
The court referred to the Gujarat HC judgement of 2009, which had stated that “an order refusing to grant remand has direct bearing on the proceedings of the trial itself and in a given case will definitely have effect on the ultimate decision of the case.” Gujarat HC had held that an order refusing to grant police remand would be the final order and a revision plea against it would be maintainable.
“In view of the statement made by Chaudhri for Deshmukh, the impugned order dated November 6 passed by special holiday court is quashed and set aside. Respondent Deshmukh is remanded in custody of ED from November 7 to November 12,” Justice Jamdar held and disposed of ED’s plea.
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