Midday Meal Scheme Corruption Case: Bombay High Court Rejects Pre-Arrest Bail Of Trust Chief After 32 Dates In 5 Years

Midday Meal Scheme Corruption Case: Bombay High Court Rejects Pre-Arrest Bail Of Trust Chief After 32 Dates In 5 Years

The Order Followed After the Intervention of the Apex Court Which Condoned the Delay While Requesting the HC To Take Up the Matter Expeditiously & Decide the Same Within a Period of One Month. The Anticipatory Bail Application (ABA) was Pending Since 2018.

Suresh Golani Urvi MahajaniUpdated: Monday, February 26, 2024, 09:07 PM IST
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Bombay High Court | File

In a five-year-old matter of alleged embezzlement of state funds meant for a mid day meal scheme, the Bombay High Court has rejected the anticipatory bail applications of two trustees of a Bhayandar-based charitable trust – former executive chairman Mohan Patil and accountant Prashant Patil. 

The matter is related to an educational institution run by the Abhinav Shetkari Shikshan Mandal in the Goddev village area.The complaint alleging rampant corruption was filed by one of the members, Tulsidas Mhatre, in 2018. 

Details of the case and its timeline

As per the complaint, there was misappropriation of Rs83,95,920 on the pretext of buying computers, software, digital smart ID cards, AV rooms and CCTV cameras; Rs1.38 crore, which was the balance of the loan raised by the previous managing committee from Bank of Maharashtra; and Rs50 lakh received as donations from NRIs.

After much dilly-dallying, the Navghar police station registered an offence against Mohan Patil, Naresh Patil and three others following an order from the Judicial Magistrate First Class, Thane, on July 21, 2018. 

The lower court rejected their anticipatory bail on April 5, 2019. The accused had sought relief from the HC five days later and were granted an ad-interim relief. However, the disposal of the anticipatory bail remained pending for four years and nine months. Notably, the lawyers had taken dates from the court 32 times on behalf of the accused citing various reasons. 

A special leave petition (criminal) was then before the Supreme Court highlighting the inordinate delays. After a hearing on January 25, 2024, the apex court condoned the delay while requesting the HC to take up the matter expeditiously and decide within a month.

Court's observations

While rejecting their pleas, HC Justice NJ Jamadar noted their custodial interrogation is required to complete the probe and unearth the scam. He, however, allowed pre-arrest bail pleas of three other former committee members, Vasudev Patil, Gurunath Patil and Dilip Patil, considering their age; all of them are in their seventies. 

The court said that considering the “nature and gravity of the offences, the severity of the punishment and the role attributed”, custodial interrogation is “indispensable”, despite the time lag. 

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