MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday accepted the statement made by the Maharashtra government that it will be giving at least three days prior notice to Sameer Wankhede, the zonal director of NCB, before taking any coercive action against him in the alleged corruption and extortion allegations. The HC has disposed of his plea without commenting or hearing the merits of the case.
A bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal was urgently plea moved by Wankhede through senior counsel Atul Nanda seeking interim protection from any coercive action by the state against him. “I see a design in the social media posts against me. I don't want to take any names as I want to keep the majesty of the law,” he said.
The judges sought to know the nature of the relief that Wankhede sought. At this, Nanda explained that the state government has ordered a 'vigilance probe' against him and has also constituted a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the allegations being made against him.
“The state is going beyond its duty. It should understand that my client is a central government officer who is investigating a case at present and has also probed several other important cases. He will cooperate with NCB but the state has now set an SIT,” the counsel told the judges.
He further added, “My client is being personally attacked by the state and a cabinet minister. His apprehension is that the state can arrest him any day, even today. Thus, we only seek an interim protection from any coercive action.”
At this, the bench pointed out that the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) provides protection to central government officers from being prosecuted in absence of a prior sanction. “If the statute itself protects you, why do you want us to step in?” the bench sought to know.
“I am not a drug peddler but a zonal director. I am not against any probe, you can transfer it to NIA or the CBI but at least stop this personal vilification. The law provides for protection of central government officers and if these rights are being breached, then this court will have to step in,” Wankhede's counsel argued.
Appearing for the state, public prosecutor, Aruna Pai told the bench that Wankhede's plea is a 'premature' and that the state has as of now only ordered a preliminary enquiry and not registered any FIR.
However, after the judges sought to know the stand of the government as regards to the protection to central government officers, Pai made a statement on instructions, that a prior notice of two days would be given to Wankhede, before any action is initiated against him. The judges said that there should be a minimum of three working days notice, and accordingly disposed of the plea.
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