Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Sunday set aside a special court order remanding former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh to judicial custody, and sent him in the Enforcement Directorate’s (ED) custody till November 12 in a money laundering case.
The ED in its application said the special court, by remanding Deshmukh to judicial custody, had denied the agency sufficient and adequate opportunity to investigate a case that has “wide and serious ramifications” .
The agency said it could interrogate Deshmukh only for five days, of which two were holidays (Diwali).
The HC, while remanding Deshmukh in the agency’s custody, observed that prime facie there was substance in the ED’s application about the legality of special court’s order.
A vacation bench of Justice Madhav Jamdar was hearing an application filed by the ED, challenging the special court’s order of November 6 remanding Deshmukh to 14-day judicial custody on the ground that it was bad in law and against the principles of natural justice.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the ED, told the court that based on the probe conducted so far, custodial interrogation was the need of the hour considering the allegation of collection of around Rs 100 crore has been made in the case.
The entire money trail is required to be established and the involvement of foreign angle cannot be ruled out at this stage, the agency said in its application.
Deshmukh’s counsel Vikram Chaudhri and advocate Aniket Nikam told the court that while they were opposing the plea on merits and maintainability, the NCP leader has consented and volunteered to be interrogated by the ED.
The ED in its application sought Deshmukh’s custody for nine days, but his counsel Chaudhri told the court that they were agreeable only for four-day custody.
The HC observed that prime facie there was substance in the ED’s application about the legality of special court’s order.
Justice Jamdar said since Deshmukh’s advocates have agreed to the ED’s custody, it was not going in detail on the aspect of legality of the special court’s order.
The HC then remanded Deshmukh to the ED’s custody till November 12.
The ED in its application said the special court, by remanding Deshmukh to judicial custody, had denied the agency sufficient and adequate opportunity to investigate a case that has “wide and serious ramifications” and more so, when the probe is at a crucial stage.
The sessions judge (special court) 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 application said.
A sufficient opportunity needs to be given to the investigating agency to probe the entire gamut of the case, so that it can collect sufficient quality evidence which will help to go to the root of the matter, it added.
The ED said it wants to now confront Deshmukh with dismissed cop Sachin Waze and others, including the NCP leader’s family members like his sons Hrishikesh Deshmukh and Salil Deshmukh and his chartered accountant.
Deshmukh was arrested by the ED on November 1 after 12 hours of questioning in connection with the multi-crore money laundering case. He was produced before a special holiday court on November 2 which remanded him in the ED’s custody till November 6.
When he was produced before the special court on Saturday, the ED had sought further custody, but the court refused and sent him to judicial custody.
The ED had earlier told the special court that Deshmukh was the “prime beneficiary” of proceeds of crime and directly involved in the offence of money laundering.
The central agency, in its remand note submitted to the special court, had said the NCP leader emerged as an “important cog in the wheels” in the case, in which there has been an allegation of collection of Rs 100 crore, and maintained the involvement of foreign angle cannot be ruled out.
It had also told the court that Deshmukh’s custodial interrogation was the need of the hour in the interest of the ongoing investigation, and that the entire money trail requires to be established in order to bring the guilty to book.
The ED had initiated a probe against Deshmukh and his associates after the CBI filed its FIR against the NCP leader on April 21 this year on charges of corruption and misuse of official position.
The case against Deshmukh and others was made out after the CBI booked him in a corruption case related to allegations of at least Rs 100 crore bribery made by ex-Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Deshmukh had refuted these allegations earlier and said the agency’s whole case was based on malicious statements made by a tainted cop (Waze).
The ED had earlier arrested two persons in the case Sanjeev Palande (additional collector rank official who was working as Deshmukh’s private secretary) and Kundan Shinde (Deshmukh’s personal assistant).
The agency earlier submitted its prosecution complaint (equivalent to a charge sheet) against the duo before a special court.