Bombay HC protects Sameer Wankhede from arrest till Monday, orders CBI to take no coercive action

Bombay HC protects Sameer Wankhede from arrest till Monday, orders CBI to take no coercive action

Earlier in the day, Wankhede had moved Bombay HC requesting the quashing of the FIR against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Friday, May 19, 2023, 10:53 PM IST
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Sameer Wankhede | Twitter

Indian Revenue Service officer and former Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) zonal director, Sameer Wankhede, received interim relief from the Bombay High Court on Friday. He provided an undertaking to cooperate with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and appear before them on Saturday morning.

The vacation bench of Justices Sharmila Deshmukh and Arif Doctor stated that there is a legal bar on the investigation under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Furthermore, arrest is not normally made when summons are issued under Section 41A of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) unless a detailed explanation is given. The court ordered the CBI not to take any coercive action against Wankhede until the next court date on Monday.

Section 17A of the PC Act requires prior government approval for any inquiry or investigation against a public servant in cases related to an official "decision." Under Section 41A CrPC, the police can issue summons to the accused person and record their statement when arrest is not warranted. Last week, the CBI issued a notice to Wankhede to appear for investigation.

Wankhede had previously skipped the CBI summons and filed a petition with the Delhi High Court. The CBI assured the Delhi High Court that they would not take coercive action against him until May 22.

During the hearing, Wankhede's lawyers argued that the CBI had failed to follow due process of law. They also emphasized that Wankhede had kept his senior officers informed and acted based on their instructions. Allegations against Wankhede had surfaced earlier, prompted by a minister's accusations after his son-in-law's arrest in 2021.

The judges questioned Wankhede's apprehension since the CBI had issued a notice under Section 41A. Wankhede's lawyer highlighted that although the section states that the person who appears shall not be arrested, there have been cases where accused individuals were arrested despite the notice under Section 41A, citing frivolous reasons. Seeking protection from coercive action, Wankhede's lawyer emphasized his decorated officer status and his contribution to revenue collection for the central government.

The lawyer also argued that the investigation against Wankhede should have been completed within four months as mandated by Section 17A of the PC Act, contending that the four months from October 2021 had already elapsed.

When asked if the CBI intends to arrest Wankhede, the CBI's advocate stated that it was the investigating officer's prerogative. The advocate mentioned that the four-month period would commence after receiving approval from the central government, which was granted on May 11.

Wankhede's plea raised concerns about the investigator, Gnaneshwar Singh, acting as the complainant, inquiry authority, evaluator of his own report, and judge of his own cause. The plea emphasized the need to follow due process of law and stated that even if taken at face value, the allegations do not constitute an offense as per Supreme Court judgment.

Wankhede had previously skipped the CBI summons and filed a petition with the Delhi High Court. The CBI assured the Delhi High Court that they would not take coercive action against him until May 22.

During the hearing, Wankhede's lawyers argued that the CBI had failed to follow due process of law. They also emphasized that Wankhede had kept his senior officers informed and acted based on their instructions. Allegations against Wankhede had surfaced earlier, prompted by a minister's accusations after his son-in-law's arrest in 2021.

The judges questioned Wankhede's apprehension since the CBI had issued a notice under Section 41A. Wankhede's lawyer highlighted that although the section states that the person who appears shall not be arrested, there have been cases where accused individuals were arrested despite the notice under Section 41A, citing frivolous reasons. Seeking protection from coercive action, Wankhede's lawyer emphasized his decorated officer status and his contribution to revenue collection for the central government.

The lawyer also argued that the investigation against Wankhede should have been completed within four months as mandated by Section 17A of the PC Act, contending that the four months from October 2021 had already elapsed.

When asked if the CBI intends to arrest Wankhede, the CBI's advocate stated that it was the investigating officer's prerogative. The advocate mentioned that the four-month period would commence after receiving approval from the central government, which was granted on May 11.

Wankhede's plea raised concerns about the investigator, Gnaneshwar Singh, acting as the complainant, inquiry authority, evaluator of his own report, and judge of his own cause. The plea emphasized the need to follow due process of law and stated that even if taken at face value, the allegations do not constitute an offense as per Supreme Court judgment.

Accusations against Wankhede

According to the First Information Report, Wankhede is alleged to have sought a bribe of Rs 25 crore from Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan to prevent implicating his son Aryan Khan in the Cordelia cruise drug bust case.

Wankhede and his subordinates violated protocols while handling the drug bust case, the report says. It is alleged that the names of Shah Rukh Khan's son, Aryan Khan, and his friend Arbaaz Merchant were added to the list of accused at the last minute, while some other suspects were removed from the case.

CBI lists offences like extortion, criminal conspiracy, bribery

Sameer Wankhede and several others were charged by the CBI based on a complaint filed by the NCB. The charges include alleged criminal conspiracy, threat of extortion, and violations of provisions related to bribery under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The investigating agency has claimed that the NCB's Mumbai Zone received information in October 2021 regarding the consumption and possession of narcotics substances by multiple individuals on a private cruise ship. It is alleged that certain officers from the NCB conspired and obtained unlawful advantages, in the form of bribes, from the individuals accused in the case.

Delhi HC had earlier granted protection to Wankhede

On Wednesday, the Delhi High Court provided Sameer Wankhede with five days of protection against coercive measures, allowing him the freedom to seek recourse through the appropriate forum, which in this case would be the Bombay High Court.

In connection with the case, the CBI called for Sameer Wankhede to appear for questioning in Mumbai on Thursday. However, he did not comply with the agency's request and did not appear before their team.

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