Mumbai: The Bombay High Court rejected the bail plea of Nagpur-based lawyer Satish Uke and his brother Pradeep, who were booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). The court observed that there is a "strong prima facie" case against them.
Justice SG Dige rejected the bail plea, stating, "All these acts of the applicants show a strong prima facie case against them."
The High Court heard an appeal filed by the Uke brothers challenging the order of the special PMLA court, which had rejected their bail plea last October. The special court had denied their bail, emphasizing their "deep-rooted involvement" in the alleged money laundering offense.
ED opposed bail plea
Their bail plea faced opposition from the Directorate of Enforcement (ED). Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and advocate Hiten Venegaonkar argued against granting relief to the accused at such an early stage, asserting that the special court's decision was justified.
An FIR was filed in 2022 by Mohammed Jaffer, the nephew of the late Mohd Samad, the owner of a five-acre plot at Mouza Bokhara in Nagpur. The allegation stated that the Uke brothers had fraudulently acquired the land by creating fake documents. They were accused of cheating and forgery amounting to Rs 2 crore. However, the brothers claimed to have purchased the land for less than Rs one crore.
While registering the offense, the ED cited three previous FIRs, including those from 2018 and 2017, alleging cheating, as predicate offenses.
The court noted that the Power of Attorney (POA), on which the Uke brothers based their claim of ownership of the subject land, was neither presented in the court records nor in the ongoing proceedings before the civil court. The POA was not registered despite the transfer of immovable property. The prosecution contended that the POA is "nonexistent and represents a fictitious person."
"It appears that there is substance in said contention, as Shri Matte's (POA) address in the sale deed is missing, and he could not be traced by the police," noted Justice Dige.
"Moreover, it appears that the subject land was already purchased by the said society in 1990 through a registered sale deed. The applicants illegally took possession of the subject land, erected a wall on it, and sold some portions of it. Part of the land belongs to Nagpur Improvement Trust (NIT). Without obtaining permission from NIT and by creating false documents and forging signatures, the applicants sold NIT's land," the court added.
Satish Uke argued that his fundamental rights were violated since no warrant was produced during his arrest. He also alleged that over 45 CRPF officers entered his house.
Uke's advocates, Mihir Desai and Ravi Jadhav, argued that they were not presented before the nearest magistrate within 24 hours of arrest. They further claimed that the ED's approach was biased, and they were falsely implicated. They contended that there were "no proceeds of crime" involved.
Uke contended that his arrest was politically motivated since he was fighting various cases against several ministers, including Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.