'Anil Deshmukh May Not Be Convicted, Sachin Waze Unreliable Witness': Bombay HC
The Bombay High Court had granted bail to the NCP leader on 4 October in a case against him by the ED.
While granting bail to former Maharashtra Home Minister and NCP leader Anil Deshmukh on 4 October in a money laundering case by the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Bombay High Court observed that he might not be convicted in this particular case, after all.
“All these factors if considered on the anvil of the test enunciated in the case of Ranjitsingh Sharma (supra) may persuade the Court to hold that, in the case of Ranjitsingh Sharma (supra) may persuade the Court to hold that, in all probabilities, the Applicant may not be ultimately convicted," the court observed.
The former minister will, however, continue to be imprisoned due to a parallel CBI case against him. Even with regards to the ED case, 13 October is when the bail order will become effective.
Further, Deshmukh’s detailed bail order also discusses the reliability of dismissed former cop Sachin Waze as a witness and the source of unaccounted donations in the trust held by Deshmukh’s family.
So what allegations has the ED levelled against Deshmukh? What exactly did the high court say to counter that? We explain.
No Clarity on Who the ‘Proceeds of Crime’ Was Being Transferred to
In its case against Deshmukh, the central agency had alleged that the proceeds of the crime included some Rs 4.7 crore extorted from bars and other establishments in Mumbai through now-dismissed Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze.
Although the Bombay High court did acknowledge that the collection of Rs 4.70 crores would qualify as proceeds of crime and there was evidence to support this, there was little clarity on who this money was being collected for. Emphasising that there were several contradictory statements, the court observed that it could either have been for Deshmukh or former police commissioner Parambir Singh.
‘No. 1’ Could Also Be Parambir Singh
The ED had claimed that Deshmukh had insisted that Waze meet with bar owners in December 2020 and pay him money, so that he could hand it over to ‘No.1.’
While the central agency had said that ‘No.1’ was a code word for Deshmukh, Sachin Waze and Parambir Singh had backed this claim.
The bench led by Justice NJ Jamadar, however, noted that ACP Sanjay Patil, who had been more consistent with his statements throughout the case unlike Waze, had said that no. 1 was Parambir Singh and not Deshmukh.
Moreover, in the Mumbai police case, several bar owners had stated, that in common parlance the Commissioner of Police (Param Bir Singh) was considered to be No.1 in police hierarchy.
"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 PMLA,” the bench further said.
‘Unsafe To Place Reliance on the Statement of Sachin Waze’
Considering Waze’s contradictory stand before the Justice Chandiwal Commission wherein he denied all the allegations against Deshmukh and his controversial past as a police officer, the court declined to rely solely on his statements.
"In my view, the material, prima facie, renders it unsafe to place reliance on the statement of Mr. Sachin Waze, a co-accused, that cash amount was collected and delivered to Mr. Kundan Shinde at the instructions of the Applicant (Deshmukh)," the court observed.
"In the least, the tenure of Mr. Sachin Waze as a police officer has been controversial. He was under suspension for almost 16 years. He came to be arrested by NIA in C.R.No.35 of 2021 for the alleged murder of a person in connection with the occurrence of a gelatin laden SUV. His statements were recorded by ED whilst he remained in the custody of jurisdictional Court," the bench added.
Additionally, the benchnoted that Param Bir Singh and Waze's claims about Deshmukh making money over police transfers and postings to be "hear-say.”
Both Waze and Singh had said that they had only 'learnt or heard' that the money changed hands.
Moreover, no part of the charge sheet indicated that Deshmukh had purchased a particular property with this money.
"These statements ex-facie cannot bear weight of the allegation of generation of proceeds of crime out of the alleged predicate offence of exercise of influence over the transfers and postings of the police officials. These statements ex-facie lack the element of certainty as to the source, time and place. They prima facie appears to be hear-say," the court said.
No Allegation That Property Was Derived From Criminal Activity
The ED had built a case stating that between 2011-2021 over Rs 13 crore of ‘illegal gratification’ collected by Deshmukh and his son, was partly transferred as ‘donations’ to Shri Sai Shikshan Sanstha, a charitable Trust, managed and controlled by Deshmukh's family.
It further alleged that Rs 1.71 crore was sent to the trust in 2021 from the money Waze collected from bar owners and reportedly sent to Deshmukh's secretary Kundan Shinde.
The court, countering this, said that there is no allegation that property had been derived or obtained as a result of criminal activity relating to scheduled offence (CBI case.)
Regarding the Rs 1.71 crore, the court stressed upon the consistent unreliability of Waze’s statements.
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