City socialite can be prosecuted: SC

Mumbai: In a major setback for socialite Sheetal Mafatlal, the Supreme Court on Thursday cleared the decks for the Mumbai Police to prosecute her for filing ‘maliciously’ false cases.

The apex court upheld the orders of the Bombay High Court, by which the police was directed to initiate criminal proceedings against Mafatlal for wasting the time of the police and also of the courts.

A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan and Navin Sinha refused to grant any relief to Mafatlal, who had challenged the orders of the High Court. She had taken exception to the orders passed by the bench of Justice Mridula Bhatkar, who had directed the Mumbai Police to prosecute her for filing three false cases.

The bench led by Justice Bhushan on Thursday dismissed her special leave petition, challenging the orders of Justice Bhatkar.

Justice Bhatkar of the High Court had passed the orders while allowing the plea of the police seeking to prosecute Mafatlal. The police filed such an application after it found that the three complaints filed by Mafatlal claiming that 31 of her paintings were siphoned off by her businessman friend Arif Patel were false.

In her complaints, Mafatlal claimed that among these 31 paintings, there were some masterpieces by artists like MF Hussain, Francis Newton Souza and Syed Haider Raza. She had accused Patel, his manager Farooq Wadia, and Yasmeen Valibhoy, who allegedly helped her in moving the paintings.

Mafatlal’s plaint was probed by the city’s Gamdevi police and the Crime Branch; however, the police department found that the allegedly stolen paintings were kept safely in an office at south Mumbai, which was owned by Mafatlal.

The police, accordingly, filed a closure report of the case by categorising it to be a ‘maliciously false’ complaint and sought permission to prosecute her.

The request of the Mumbai police was granted by the bench of Justice Bhatkar, who in her orders, said, “The police machinery probed the matter for three years.

The court’s time was unnecessarily taken in this prosecution which cannot be compensated. Thus, legal action needs to be taken against Mafatlal.”

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