February 18, 2021 3:51:50 am
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday continued till February 24 interim relief of no coercive action against NCP leader and former revenue minister Eknath Khadse in connection with the ED case related to a 2016 land deal in Bhosari, Pune.
A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice Manish Pitale was hearing Khadse’s plea against the ED case. In December 2020, the ED, which registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) last October, had sent a notice to Khadse over the land deal. Khadse, who had left BJP to join NCP last October, had appeared before the ED on January 15 and was questioned for over six hours in connection with the case.
Thereafter, Khadse had moved a criminal writ petition before the HC seeking quashing of the ECIR and also sought interim protection from coercive action pending hearing of his plea. Khadse’s counsel had submitted that his client has been cooperating with the central agency and would continue to do so, therefore no arrest be made pending hearing.
Senior counsel Aabad Ponda representing Khadse said that his client had filed the plea as he was apprehensive of being arrested in connection with the ECIR. He submitted that though Khadse was named in the ECIR, the report was prepared in view of the earlier FIR registered against Khadse and others in the land deal case.
Ponda submitted that while his client was not challenging the ECIR but praying for quashing proceedings arising out of it, which included the earlier summons issued to him along with the restraint on future summons.
He submitted that while responding to summons, if Khadse is asked any ‘incriminating question’ leading to such evidence or documents during the interrogation, the agency could invoke the power vested in it to arrest him on the grounds of non-cooperation, therefore his apprehension was justified. “These proceedings are in complete abuse of the process of law,” Ponda submitted.
Refuting claims made by the ED through Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh that the petition was not maintainable as the ECIR had not named Khadse and that the summons were actually show-cause proceedings and no appeal could lie against it, Ponda submitted that the summons was issued by the ED under the PMLA and therefore the plea was maintainable.
Singh sought from the court to allow the ED to rely on past judgments which held petitions challenging issuance of summons were not maintainable during the next hearing. After receiving an affirmative response as to whether interim protection from no coercive action against the petitioner would be continued, the court accepted and posted the plea for further hearing on February 24.
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