The Bombay High Court has observed that former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh is not likely to be convicted of money laundering based on the evidence before it, Bar and Bench reported on Wednesday.
Justice NJ Jamadar granted bail to the Nationalist Congress Party leader on Tuesday. The detailed order was made public later in the day.
The court noted that the Enforcement Directorate primarily relied on the statements of dismissed police officer Sachin Waze and said that his tenure in the police force had been controversial.
The judge noted that Vaze had earlier been under suspension for nearly 16 years and that he was arrested on allegations of having placed an explosives-laden car outside the home of industrialist Mukesh Ambani.
“All these factors if considered on the anvil of the test enunciated in the case of [Ranjitsingh Sharma vs State of Maharashtra] may persuade the court to hold that, in all probabilities, the applicant may not be ultimately convicted,” Justice Jamadar said.
The court also said that Vaze’s status in the case is currently that of a co-accused person. “To what extent, even at this stage, the statements of co-accused can be used against another, may warrant consideration,” the judgement said.
Vaze had claimed that police officials collected Rs 1.71 crore from bar owners in February and March 2021, and the money was later handed over to Deshmukh’s personal assistant Kundan Shinde.
However, the High Court said that the allegations prima facie appeared to be hearsay. “These statements ex-facie lack the element of certainty as to the source, time and place,” the court said.
The Enforcement Directorate had alleged that Vaze asked bar owners to pay him money to be handed over to “Number 1”, which was allegedly a code name for Deshmukh. However, the court took note of a statement by Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjay Patil, who said that Vaze told him “Number 1” was former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh.
Several bar owners had also stated before a magistrate that the commissioner of police was considered to be “Number 1” in the police hierarchy in common parlance, according to Live Law.
“These statements which were recorded before the learned magistrate stand on a higher footing than the statements extracted by the ED under Section 50 of the [Prevention of Money Laundering Act]” the court said.
Justice Jamadar also took note of medical reports that said that Deshmukh was suffering from some degenerative and chronic ailments. “In the light of the material on record, it would be audacious to observe that the Applicant is not a sick person,” the court said.
The High Court, while granting bail to Deshmukh, directed him to furnish a bail bond of Rs 1 lakh and a surety of the same amount.
The bail order pertains to the case registered against him by the Enforcement Directorate. However, the Nationalist Congress Party leader will remain in Mumbai’s Arthur Road Prison on account of a related corruption case filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation.