Mumbai: In what could spell trouble for former chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, the Maharashtra government informed the Bombay High Court on Thursday it has initiated preliminary enquiry against the Shiv Sena chief and his family following a complaint alleging that they hold disproportionate assets (DA).
Public prosecutor Aruna Kamat Pai told a division bench of Justices Dheeraj Thakur and Valmiki Menezes after the bench had already reserved order in a public interest litigation (PIL) seeking a probe by central agencies against Thackerays for allegedly owning disproportionate assets beyond their known sources of income.
The story around the PIL filed
The HC was hearing a PIL initiated by Gouri Bhide, 38, whose family was in the publishing business like the Thackerays – who publish Marmik magazine and the daily Saamna. She had prayed for a thorough and impartial probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the “disproportionate” assets of Thackerays.
After a brief hearing in the morning session, the bench reserved the PIL for order.
However, Ms Pai mentioned the PIL in the afternoon sessions to inform the court about the state government’s stand. "The Mumbai police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW) has initiated a preliminary enquiry into the allegations," she said.
Before filing the PIL, Bhide had sent a letter to the Mumbai police commissioner on her allegations. She said that she had not been informed about any such enquiry initiated by the police. "My request is that the central agencies should be directed to probe, " Ms Bhide told the court.
Earlier, counsels for Thackerays, Aspi Chinoy and Ashok Mundargi, had opposed the plea Calling it “absolutely bereft of any material” and filed purely on “assumptions”.
Mr Chinoy argued: “The petition is absolutely bereft of any material and is filed purely on assumptions. The petitioner has an alternate remedy of filing a private complaint before a magistrate's court seeking police probe.”
The counsel argued that Mr Thackeray was not in power anymore and hence it cannot be alleged that he or his family can influence any probe.
The PIL had expressed astonishment at periodicals 'Marmik' and 'Saamna' - run by the Thackeray family - never being subjected to the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC). It stated that during the lockdown, when print media in the country was facing heavy losses, the company ‘Prabodhan Prakashan Pvt. Ltd.’, practically owned by Thackeray family, showed a huge turnover of ₹42 crores and booked a profit of ₹11.5 crores.
Pointing to the contention, Mr Chinoy said the documents in the petition did not state facts. “If the only fact is that Saamna and Marmik made profits and other papers did not make, that cannot be a reason for initiating criminal procedures,” he contended.
Ms Bhide claims to have been inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s anti-corruption motto ‘Na khaunga na khane dunga’ and thought of helping the (Central) Government in unearthing more unaccounted wealth. According to her plea, although Mr Thackeray, his wife Rashmi and their son Aaditya have never disclosed any service, profession or business as their official sources of income, they have properties worth crores in Mumbai and Raigad districts.
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