Bombay High Court has reserved it's order on former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh's plea against Enforcement Directorate (ED) summons. The division bench of Justices Nitin M Jamdar and Sarang V Kotwal will be passing their order in due course of time.
The ED has issued five summons to Deshmukh so far. However, he has not made himself available for the investigation. Deshmukh is seeking quashing of these summons and interim protection from arrest.
During the hearing on Wednesday, ED opposed the plea by stating that it was not maintainable as the agency had the 'right to investigate' and to collect evidence in any case and bring the guilty to book.
The central agency, through Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aman Lekhi, argued that despite issuing summons as per procedure and law to interrogate him pertaining to material allegedly seized from him, Deshmukh was reluctant to appear in person, and the same indicated that he was aware that he could be arrested due to material against him.
"He [Deshmukh] is not appearing but just giving replies. There is no unfairness, violation of due process (by ED). He cannot decide the manner and method of investigation. Who is he? He might have been a senior government official at one point in time. But right now, he is a common man and he has to abide by due process of law and procedures, but he chose not to. There are no privileges anymore. There is no malafide in the case initiated by the agency," Lekhi argued and sought dismissal of the plea.
Lekhi further said that the ED had a right to question the suspect at the place and time as per its discretion and Deshmukh cannot decide the manner of probe. Therefore, no relief should be granted to him as the investigation is at the initial stage and any intervention by the high court would stall the entire process. He pointed out that even the Supreme Court had also refrained from granting any protection to Deshmukh.
The ED probe has claimed that Deshmukh, as home minister, had “received illegal gratification of approximately Rs 4.7 crore in cash from various orchestra bar owners” and this money was laundered.
Senior counsel Vikram Chaudhri and advocate Aniket Nikam for Deshmukh had told the high court earlier this week that the ex-minister is willing to cooperate with the probe, provided it is undertaken with “objectivity," and without “arbitrariness” and “vendetta,”
Lekhi argued that Deshmukh's plea was "misconceived" as the ED had only issued summons to Deshmukh under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act and the same stipulates personal appearance of a suspect to attend the ED office in person.
Since Deshmukh approached the high court instead of answering the summons, Lekhi said that this indicated that he was withholding some information and wanted to "stifle and interdict the probe."
He said that if Deshmukh was alleging 'malice,' he should make such persons as parties to the petition, whom he accused of being 'murderers and extortionists.'