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Tuesday, Sep 27, 2022

Can’t join hands with a vengeful complainant like ED, says court as it discharges duo held in PMLA case

Discharging Babulal Varma and Kamalkishor Gupta, who have been in jail since January 2021, and making their interim release granted on August 8 absolute, the court noted that in the absence of a scheduled offence, continuing the case “will be nothing but futile work”.

A co-accused in the case, Joshi, has also filed for discharge in the case. His plea will be heard next week. (Representational)

Stating that it “cannot join hands with a vengeful complainant like the ED” by continuing to keep the accused in custody, a special court on Wednesday discharged two promoters of Omkar Group from a money laundering case filed by the Central agency.

Discharging Babulal Varma and Kamalkishor Gupta, who have been in jail since January 2021, and making their interim release granted on August 8 absolute, the court noted that in the absence of a scheduled offence, continuing the case “will be nothing but futile work”.

The court said: “…this Court strongly feels that it cannot join hands with vengeful complainant like ED (Enforcement Directorate) to humiliate accused persons by continuing their judicial custody that too, in utter disregard to the recent law of the land.”

ED had filed a case against Varma and Gupta among others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on a cheating case filed in Aurangabad. The case in Aurangabad, the scheduled offence, was closed after a report was filed by the police stating that there was no evidence to charge the duo. The local court in the district accepted the closure report.

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“When there is no scheduled offence at all in existence, continuation of the PMLA case will be nothing but a futile work. Such futile work at the cost of detention of accused behind bars, is absolutely without any legal basis or justification,” special judge M G Deshpande said in his order.

The lawyers for Varma and Gupta – Vijay Aggarwal, Rahul Agarwal and Aabad Ponda – had referred to a recent Supreme Court ruling, which stated that proceedings under PMLA cannot continue in absence of a scheduled offence. “Basically in the absence of scheduled offence, there cannot be any proceeds of crime. When there is no proceeds of crime, there cannot be money laundering and when there is no money laundering, prosecution for the same under the PMLA is not maintainable,” the court said.

The special court, relying on the top court order, said that the trial against the duo under PMLA cannot continue “as if the court is a post office” to frame charges at the behest of the ED.

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The ED had arrested Varma and Gupta linked to an alleged money laundering case against Omkar Realtors and Developers Private Limited.

The ED’s complaint against them and others, including actor-businessman Sachin Joshi, is related to an FIR filed in 2020 in Aurangabad on charges of cheating Aurangabad Gymkhana and its directors. The complainant in the case had submitted before the Aurangabad court that the case had resulted out of a misunderstanding and that the dispute was civil in nature.

Special public prosecutor Hiten Venegavkar had argued that the clean chit to the accused in the cheating case cannot be considered “honourable” and cannot be used to dictate the fate of the PMLA case.

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The court noted that the ED had nowhere challenged the Aurangabad court’s order accepting the closure of the probe in the scheduled offence. The special court said that it was its duty to apply the principles and guidelines laid down by the Apex court. “If this court fails to do so, certainly it will lead to a situation, ‘sun is there, but light has gone’,” the court said.

A co-accused in the case, Joshi, has also filed for discharge in the case. His plea will be heard next week.

First published on: 24-08-2022 at 01:51:24 pm
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