HC to decide if Anil Deshmukh's plea against ED summons should be heard by single bench 

By PTI

MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday said it would decide on September 13 whether the petition filed by former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh against the summons issued to him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case should be heard by a single or division bench.

Deshmukh had last week filed the petition seeking to quash the five summons issued by the ED.

When the petition came up for hearing before a single bench of Justice S K Shinde, solicitor general Tushar Mehta, appearing for the ED, brought to the court’s attention a note addressed by the HC registry department, saying the plea ought to be heard by a division bench (comprising two judges).

“If the registry has raised an objection, then it ought to be cleared first as a single bench might not be able to decide on certain issues and challenges in a petition,” Mehta said.

Senior counsel Vikram Chaudhri and advocate Aniket Nikam, appearing for Deshmukh, however, opposed and said the single bench had the jurisdiction to hear the plea.

Justice Shinde said he would consider the issue and pass orders on September 13.

“The registry has raised this objection. I will deal with this issue and pass orders,” Justice Shinde said.

The ED had initiated a probe against Deshmukh and his associates after the CBI filed its FIR against the NCP leader on April 21 on charges of corruption and misuse of official position.

In his plea, Deshmukh said the action of the ED is a result of “political vendetta”.

“This is a case where repeatedly they (ED) are creating undue sensation with selective leakage of information. They are issuing summons and now a lookout circular despite the applicant (Deshmukh) writing to them that the case is pending before the courts and seeking to appear virtually before the agency,” Chaudhri said.

Chaudhri sought interim protection pending hearing of the plea, which was opposed by Mehta.

Deshmukh in his petition said the agency’s whole case is based on the “malicious statements” made by dismissed cop Sachin Waze, who is presently in jail in the Antilia bomb scare and killing of businessman Mansukh Hiran case.

“The statements made by Waze, a tainted cop, are absolutely false and concocted with a malafide intention to defame and frame the applicant (Deshmukh) with ulterior motives,” the petition said.

Deshmukh refuted the claims made by the ED that while serving as home minister, he misused his official position and through Waze collected Rs 4.70 crore from various bars and restaurants in Mumbai.

The ED has said that the money was allegedly laundered to Nagpur-based Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha, an education trust controlled by Deshmukh’s family.

“The entire claim of Waze giving Rs 4.70 crore to the applicant (Deshmukh) and the same amount being routed by the applicant’s family is factually incorrect,” the plea said.

It added that the amount received by the Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha was donations made before the period in which Waze alleges to have received illegal gratification from bars and restaurants.

“There was never any cash received as illegal gratification from bar owners as claimed by Waze,” the plea said.

The NCP leader further said that Waze was reinstated in the police force by the then Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. The ED has so far arrested two persons in the case — Sanjeev Palande (additional collector rank official who was working as Deshmukh’s private secretary) and Kundan Shinde (Deshmukh’s personal assistant).

The agency had last month submitted its prosecution complaint (equivalent to a charge sheet) against the duo before a special court.

The CBI had lodged its FIR against Deshmukh after it conducted a preliminary inquiry against the NCP leader following an order from the HC on April 5.

Deshmukh had resigned from the post of home minister on April 5, but denied any wrongdoing.