Mumbai: Observing that the scam over Rs 300 crore would have an adverse impact on the economy of the Union Territory of Daman and Diu, the Bombay High Court recently turned down the discharge plea of a man, who is alleged to be the ‘money keeper’ of a senior IAS officer, the prime accused in the infamous 2010 excise scam. The HC has ordered him to face trial and defend himself and not seek discharge from the case.
A bench of Justice Sambhaji Shinde dismissed the petition filed by Rakesh Rastogi (56), challenging the orders of a special CBI court in Delhi, which refused to discharge him.
Rastogi along with his IAS boss – O Ravi, the joint secretary of the union home ministry of the then government, was named as an accused in the infamous excise scam of the year 2010.
The case pertains to the alleged scam worth Rs 340 crores wherein officials of the excise department at Daman in connivance with some distillers under-reported the production of liquor by preparing fake documents. This as per the CBI was done to evade the excise duty and value added tax (VAT). The agency has further claimed that the accused distillers also sold the ‘under-reported’ liquor bottles to neighbouring states of Maharashtra, Goa and Gujarat.
According to the prosecution, Rastogi was the ‘money keeper’ of the IAS officer and looked after his ‘ill-gotten’ wealth. The agency had also seized nearly Rs 22 lakh out of the total Rs 25 lakh from Rastogi’s bank locker.
Apart from all this, Rastogi’s call data records also established how he was in constant touch with Ravi and other prime accused in the case.
In his defence, Rastogi argued that the alleged money seized from his bank account was his ‘personal’ money and had nothing to do with the crime in question. He also made an attempt to ridicule the CDRs collected by the prosecution.
Having considered the contentions, Justice Shinde said, “The various defence attempted by Rastogi, right from his CDR to the seized money, all these aspects will have to be proved during the course of trial. If the material produced on record is to be considered in its entirety, the same is sufficient to frame the charge.”
“In so far as knowledge of conspiracy is concerned, normally the conspiracies are hatched in secrecy, and therefore, prosecution will have to be given an opportunity to lead circumstantial evidence during trial,” Justice Shinde added.
Referring to the recovery of the amount from Rastogi’s account, Justice Shinde said, “It is the case of the prosecution that there is a scandal of Rs 300 crores and more. It is therefore important to note that scandal of such a huge amount would certainly ruin the economy of a union territory like Daman and Diu, and therefore, considering the material on record, the nature of crime appears to be very serious and would certainly affect upon the society at large.”