The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted anticipatory bail to Bharatiya Janata Party leader Kirit Somaiya in an alleged case of misappropriation of funds collected to restore the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, Live Law reported.
Justice Anuja Prabhudesai said that the first information report shows that the allegations against the former MP are mainly based on media reports. “In the FIR, prima facie there is nothing on record to show how the complainant arrived at the amount of Rs 57 crores,” the judge added.
Somaiya and his son Neil had filed for pre-arrest bail on April 9 after the Mumbai Police filed a criminal case against them on the basis of a complaint by 53-year-old former Army officer Baban Bhosle.
According to the complaint, Somaiya had started a campaign between 2013 and 2014 to raise funds to restore the aircraft carrier. However, the money raised was not deposited with the Maharashtra governor’s secretary office but rerouted into his own business. The complainant claimed that he also donated to the campaign.
The FIR was registered against Kirit Somaiya and Neil under Sections 420 [cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property], 406 [punishment for criminal breach of trust] and 34 [acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention] of the Indian Penal Code.
Somaiya approached the Bombay High Court on Tuesday challenging rejection of his anticipatory bail by a sessions court.
At Wednesday’s hearing, senior advocate Ashok Mundargi, appearing for Somaiya, said that this was a “highly politicised matter”, PTI reported.
He said that in December 2013, Somaiya collected only Rs 11,224 during a “Save INS Vikrant” campaign in Churchgate area.
“In 2014, the state government and the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation backed out [of the initiative to restore the warship] and Vikrant was scrapped,” Mundargi added.
The lawyer said that he did not know how the amount of nearly Rs 11,000 went up to Rs 57 crore in the FIR filed against his client.
When the judge asked how the amount of Rs 11,224 collected during the drive was used, Mundargi said he is not aware of the details, reported PTI.
“The governor didn’t respond to our letter on this amount collected by us,” Mundargi told the court. “It must have been deposited somewhere.”
While granting him interim protection, the judge said that if Somaiya is arrested then he will have to furnish a personal bond of Rs 50,000.
The court also asked Somaiya to report to the investigating officer in the case for four days, starting from April 18 between 11 am and 2 pm.
The sessions court had on Monday said that there is photographic evidence that Somaiya had collected the money along with a letter claiming that he would deposit the money with the governor. However, he did not do so.