Invoking the Supreme Court’s observation that money laundering was as serious as murder and terrorism, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday, while opposing bail plea of former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh in the Bombay High Court, said the “material” against the NCP leader showed his direct involvement and criminality and therefore, he should not be granted relief.
A single-judge bench of Justice N J Jamadar on Wednesday concluded a two-day hearing on Deshmukh’s plea and reserved its order, adding it would be pronounced “as early as possible”. Noting that the plea was pending before the HC since March 21, the top court had on Monday directed the HC to decide the same expeditiously.
Deshmukh’s lawyer Vikram Chaudhari told the bench that the SC order was not meant to pressurise the High Court but only to seek interim relief for his client. Justice Jamadar, however, expressed his displeasure stating that once the parties to the case were aware of the administrative decision of the Chief Justice of the HC of assigning matter specifically to his court, they ought to have mentioned it before the HC for urgent reliefs.
Deshmukh had moved the HC, through advocates Aniket Nikam and Inderpal Singh, after the special Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) Act court in March rejected his bail plea on the ground that there is prima facie proof to indicate that he had exercised “undue influence” over transfers and postings of police officers.
Chaudhari had on Tuesday argued that his 73-year-old client has been suffering from various ailments, including lung and spinal disorders. Chaudhari told HC that his client has been falsely implicated in the case and that it was former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh on whose instructions the alleged extortion amount was collected.
On Wednesday, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Anil Singh, representing ED, submitted that the statements of witnesses and other evidence showed that the applicant is involved in a money laundering case.
He submitted that the said statements suggested there were meetings between now dismissed police officer Sachin Waze, assistant commissioners Sanjay Patil and Deshmukh’s private assistant Kundan Shinde, where Waze claimed to have been called to collect money from bar owners and thereafter, sent it to the minister.
He added that in view of the seriousness of offence under the PMLA, such an economic offence would have an effect on the financial strength of the country. Singh also said that Deshmukh was not entitled to bail on medical grounds as there is no grievance that he has not been treated for his ailments.
In rejoinder, Chaudhari argued that the central agency’s entire case was based on statements by Waze, who is being made approver in the case, and is soon to be let out.