Mumbai: In a temporary relief to former Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar, the State Government orally assured the Bombay High Court on Monday that no coercive action would be taken against her for two days in connection with an alleged scam involving the purchase of body bags for COVID-19 victims.
Pednekar approached the high court after the sessions court rejected her pre-arrest bail plea on August 29. The sessions court observed that the allegations prima facie showed a conspiracy involving the misuse of power and public money.
Her advocate, Rahul Arote, told the court that the applicant (Pednekar) was a former mayor who feared arrest in the case.
Next hearing on Sept 6
Additional government pleader RM Pethe sought time and stated that the case investigation officer was present in court, and the police would refrain from taking any coercive steps until Wednesday.
Justice NJ Jamadar then scheduled the matter for a hearing on September 6.
Pednekar has claimed that she is falsely implicated in the case. "The complaint against the applicant is tainted with malice, politically motivated, and made with an ulterior motive. Baseless and frivolous allegations have been made against the applicant with the sole purpose of implicating her in a serious offense," the plea read.
She also alleged that the complaint against her had political overtones as it was lodged only after the split in the Shiv Sena. Furthermore, she has stated that the complainant, a BJP leader, is a habitual complainant with a history of targeting politicians who do not owe allegiance to his party.
Case registered against govt officials
Following a complaint by a BJP leader, the Economic Offence Wing (EOW) of the Mumbai police registered an FIR against Pednekar, a former additional municipal commissioner (projects), and a former deputy municipal commissioner (purchase/CPD) under various sections of the Indian Penal Code for cheating and criminal conspiracy. A case was also registered against a private contractor, Vedant Innotech, and unknown government servants for the alleged fraud of Rs 49.63 lakh.
It was alleged that there was misappropriation of funds and irregularities in the management of health facilities and the purchase of body bags for deceased coronavirus patients, masks, and other items by the BMC during the pandemic.
Vedant Innotech had allegedly supplied body bags to the BMC at Rs 6,719 apiece, which is more than three times (Rs 1,500 apiece) the amount it had charged other government authorities or private hospitals during the same period.
The former Mayor sought interim protection from arrest pending a hearing in her plea.