Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Tuesday granted interim protection to former minister and NCP MLA Hasan Mushrif for two weeks and meanwhile asked him to approach the special court seeking pre-arrest bail in the alleged money laundering case related to a sugar mill.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Mushrif seeking quashing of the ECIR (akin to a First Information Report) registered by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) against his three sons officially related to the Sar Senapati Santaji Ghorpade Sugar Factory Ltd.
Judges say all contentions on merits open
While asking Mushrif to approach the special court, a bench of Justice Revati Mohite-Dere and Sharmila Deshmukh has asked the special judge hearing cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) to hear his plea, if filed, at the earliest. “Petition is filed. No coercive action is sought. The petitioner to approach the trial court. We protect him for two weeks,” noted the bench in its order. The judges said they have kept all contentions on merits open and posted Mushrif’s plea seeking quashing of the case after four weeks.
During the hearing on Tuesday, Mushrif’s Advocates Aabad Ponda and Prashant Patil argued that the HC, on May 2, 2022, stayed the special court order initiating criminal proceedings in a cheating case registered in Kolhapur. The matter was considered a predicate offence; meaning it was a part of the money laundering case.
Mushrif premises searched on March 11
The counsels argued that Mushrif premises were searched on March 11, a day after the HC granted him relief. On March 10, the HC, directed that no coercive action be taken against Mushrif in the Kolhapur case till further order. The court also remarked that there was a “deliberate attempt” to take action against him in the ED cases.
The judges asked Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, appearing for the ED, whether the central agency intends to arrest Mushrif. Singh replied that if the MLA wants protection he can file for pre-arrest bail before the special court. He can't seek protection from arrest under the guise of quashing proceedings, he said.
"ED’s investigation is dependent on the predicate offence"
Ponda contended that ED’s investigation is dependent on the predicate offence. The ED’s malafide (intention) is already under the HC's judicial scrutiny and the same FIR (in the Kolhapur case) is being investigated. Hence, it's only fair that his client is granted relief, Ponda said.
Mushrif’s plea said the ED's real intention was to target him. Therefore, despite having no case and the matter pertaining to the predicate offence being stayed, the agency was trying to arrest him possibly at the behest of BJP's Kirit Somaiya. “It is common knowledge as to how in recent times the ED office is being used to wreck political vengeance and either severely damage or completely destroy political careers,” the plea alleged.
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