Maharashtra: Two money laundering accused discharged from case based on SC ruling

Babulal Varma and Kamalkishore Gupta of Omkar Group were accused in a case where Yes Bank was defrauded to the tune of Rs. 410 crores.

Bhavna UchilUpdated: Wednesday, August 24, 2022, 10:10 PM IST
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Maharashtra: Two money laundering accused discharged from case based on SC ruling | Representative Image

In probably a first following an apex court ruling last month that held that if the scheduled offence does not exist, the accused cannot be charged with money laundering based on that offence, two directors of a realty group on Wednesday secured a clean chit in a money laundering case.

Babulal Varma and Kamalkishore Gupta of Omkar Group were accused in a case where Yes Bank was defrauded to the tune of Rs. 410 crores. Earlier this month, the duo, who had been in judicial custody since January last year, were granted temporary release from custody based on the SC ruling as the case against them registered in Aurangabad in 2020 had been closed. It was based on this cheating offence that the money laundering case had been registered. On Wednesday, Special Judge MG Deshpande made his interim order absolute.

On August 8, the duo had claimed immediate release in a plea filed through their advocates, Vijay Aggarwal and Rahul Agarwal, and had secured interim release the very day. In its detailed order in favour of the duo, Judge Deshpande said today that there is no crime or any case against them relating to the scheduled offence. The court noted that the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the prosecuting agency, had "opted to maintain silence" to the acceptance of the closure report by the Aurangabad magistrate. It said the effect of the order of the magistrate accepting the closure report is nothing but an acquittal. It also pointed out that the order was not challenged and thus attained finality.

In response to the accused’s plea for immediate release, the ED’s prosecutor had sought that their judicial custody be extended and that the plea be posted for hearing after a few days. There has to be an effective check against the unscrupulous exercise of power by the ED in seeking casual extensions of judicial custody. The judge added that the ED, eccentrically and whimsically, cannot say that there has to be an automatic extension of judicial custody.

This Court strongly feels that it cannot join hands with vengeful complainants like ED to humiliate accused persons by continuing their judicial custody, that too, in utter disregard to the recent law of the land," it stated, adding that the top court has time and again laid down that life bereft of liberty is without honour and dignity. It says if the power to extend judicial custody is exercised in utter disregard of the mandate of the law, the rights of life and liberty enshrined under Art. 21 of the Constitution of India will be in danger of extinction. "In this process, the court, which is the protector of the rights of citizens (under trial prisoners), will become the "predator" of rights."

Judge Deshpande’s order read that a duty is cast on the court to identify the situation and apply principles or guidelines laid down by the SC. It said if it fails to do so, certainly it will lead to a situation where "the sun is there but the light has gone."

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