In a partial relief for former State home minister Anil Deshmukh, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted him bail in a money laundering case registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), observing that “there is no allegation that the said property had been derived or obtained as a result of criminal activity relating to a scheduled offence.
“Instead what is alleged is that the applicant laundered unaccounted cash during the period he was holding the office of [state] Home Minister,” observed Justice NJ Jamadar in a 53-page judgment.
The court, however, said the bail order “will be effective” from Oct 13 to allow the ED to go in appeal to the Supreme Court. The apex court is shut till Oct 10 for Dussehra.
Deshmukh’s counsel, Vikram Chaudhari and Aniket Nikam, argued that the ED had nothing concrete against the politician. The alleged incident that took place more than seven years back is based on statements of “unreliable witnesses”, they said.
The ED said that while serving as Home Minister, Deshmukh misused his position and through dismissed police officer Sachin Waze collected Rs 4.70 crore from various bars.
The money was allegedly laundered to the Nagpur-based Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha, an education trust controlled by his family. As regards the transfer to the account of Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha between 2011-19 and September-November 2020, the court noted that there is nothing to show that the amount transferred “had been derived or obtained as a result of criminal activity relating to scheduled offence”.
Regarding the statements of Vaze and former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, the court said: “In the aforesaid statements, evidently both the deponents claimed to have ‘learnt or heard’ that money changed hands… These statements ex-facie lack the element of certainty as to the source, time and place. They prima facie appear to be hear-say.”
The court also took on record the ill health of the 73-year-old former minister.
“The material on record does indicate that the applicant has been suffering from multiple ailments. He is 73 years of age. Few of the ailments may classified as degenerative. The medical reports/certificates also show that the applicant is suffering from chronic ailments. In the light of the material on record, it would be audacious to observe that the applicant is not a sick person.”
For the ED, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and advocates Aditya Thakker and Shreeram Shirsat opposed the bail plea contending that Deshmukh is an influential person who can sway witnesses. The court said Deshmukh “appears to have roots in society” and hence the “possibility of fleeing from justice seems remote”.
The apprehension on the part of the prosecution of tampering with evidence and threatening the witnesses can be taken care of by imposing appropriate conditions. Deshmukh has been directed to report regularly to the ED office and attend “each and every date of the proceedings before the PMLA court”.
The High Court also directed him to deposit his passport with the special court and not leave Mumbai without the special court’s permission until the trial is concluded.
“In the event the applicant violates any of the aforesaid conditions, the relief of bail granted by this court shall be liable to be cancelled,” it added.
The ED had initiated a probe against Deshmukh and his associates after the Central Bureau of Investigation filed its FIR against the NCP leader on April 21 on charges of corruption and misuse of official position.
He was arrested by the ED in November last year. The CBI took him into custody in April this year.