The Bombay High Court on Thursday said that the judiciary, central agencies and institutions should act independently, reported Live Law.

A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale were hearing a petition filed by Nationalist Congress Party leader Eknath Khadse, seeking to quash an Enforcement Directorate complaint registered against him in an alleged land grabbing case.

In an Enforcement Case Information Report filed against the NCP leader, his wife Mandakini Khadse and son-in-law Girish Choudhari in October 2020, the investigation agency alleged that Khadse had misused his position as the revenue minister in 2016 to buy a land at a lower price, causing a loss of Rs 62 crore to the public exchequer, PTI reported.

In Thursday’s hearing, Khadse’s counsel Aabad Ponda asked the court to grant the former minister interim protection from any coercive action by the ED, till the hearing of the plea was pending. Advocate Anil Singh, representing the ED, said that the agency would not take any action till January 25.

To this, the court sought to know why the ED was insisting on protection only till Monday, PTI reported.

“What heavens are going to fall if the petitioner is given protection for few more days,” Shinde asked. “We are always of the belief that the judiciary and agencies like the RBI [Reserve Bank of India], CBI [Central Bureau of Investigation], ED [Enforcement Directorate] and so on should act independently and impartially. There is a threat to the very democracy if these agencies do not act independently.”

The court also questioned the need for arrest, following Ponda’s submission that his client was willing to cooperate in the inquiry, Live Law reported. “If someone is ready to cooperate and honour the summons, we pose the question to ourselves, what is the reason to arrest,” Shinde said.

Khadse, 68, who quit the Bharatiya Janata Party and joined the NCP in October 2020, appeared before the ED in Mumbai on January 15 to record his statement in relation to the case.

Meanwhile, in his plea seeking quashing of the complaint, Khadse submitted that the land in question was purchased by his wife and son-in-law from the owner legally. In response, the ED in its affidavit, said that an initial investigation has clearly revealed various evidences showing money laundering in the case, PTI reported.

The court listed the matter for next hearing on January 25.