MUMBAI – Former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was arrested in a money-laundering case early on Tuesday, after extensive questioning, and produced before a holiday special court, which sent him to custody of the Enforcement Directorate till November 6.
Special Judge P.B. Jadhav rejected the plea by ED’s counsel, Additional Solicitor-General Anil Singh seeking 14 days’ custody, which defence lawyers, senior advocate Vikram Chaudhri and advocate Aniket Nikam strongly protested.
Chaudhri said that before the Supreme Court and Bombay High Court, the ED had said that Deshmukh was only a suspect and not an accused in the case and said termed the arrest as “illegal”.
That was the reason Deshmukh voluntarily went to the ED office on November 1 and after 13 hours of questioning he was placed under arrested, he said.
The defence sought to know what fresh evidence the ED had gathered in the past four days since Friday, leading to the arrest especially since he had always cooperated with the agency, whenever summoned.
Following an application by Deshmukh, Special Judge Jadhav allowed him home food and medicines, and presence of a lawyer during the ED interrogation, given his advanced age of 72 and several health issues like a dislocated arm and heart problems, besides being a Covid-recovered patient, said Nikam.
The Bombay High Court on Friday declined Deshmukh’s plea to quash the ED summons against him, and he said that his matter was still pending before the Supreme Court.
The ED filed its case based on the CBI’s FIR against Deshmukh after the former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh had alleged that the minister had tasked cop Sachin Vaze and others to collect Rs 100 crore from Mumbai hoteliers every month.
In a video-statement prior to appearing before the ED, Deshmukh had demanded to know “where is Singh who had levelled the false allegations” and now disappeared, amid reports he may have sneaked out of India.
Following Singh’s letter in March, the ED and CBI had carried out multiple raids on Deshmukh and family, and the ED sought his 14 days custody citing “non-cooperation”.
Deshmukh refuted the ED charges saying that whenever he was summoned, he had replied to them, provided documents, etc and said that he would appear after the outcome of his various court appeals.
“On account of a witch-hunt campaign launched at the instance of certain vested inimical interests, some blatantly false allegations have been levelled by those persons who have absolutely no credibility, honour or pride,” said Deshmukh.
He added that “these unscrupulous persons are themselves knee-deep involved in several rackets of extortion and even murder. The principal person who held the high office of Mumbai CoP is now a wanted absconding criminal”.
The Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) partners Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress have castigated the ED and termed it as a “politically motivated move” aimed to destabilise the three-party government.
They also questioned the Centre on the whereabouts of the “missing” Mumbai Police Commissioner who hurled the allegations against Deshmukh in a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in March.
“The arrest does not fit within the legal framework… Deshmukh is already fighting a legal battle the outcome of which is awaited. The arrest is unfortunate,” said Sena chief spokesperson Sanjay Raut.
“This action is clearly with political intentions to malign the MVA governmenta Central agencies like ED, IT, NCB, CBI are misused to target the government and a repeat of West Bengal is being attempted herea But we are not scared,” said NCP national spokesperson and Minister Nawab Malik.
He questioned if even Singh, like many others in the past, was given a “safe passage”, whether he took the air route, or sea route or the land route to Nepal from Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh or Bihar as all the three states are BJP-ruled.
Congress General Secretary Sachin Sawant termed it as “a travesty of justice as the complainant who levelled the allegations without giving any evidence is himself absconding or allowed to flee the country”.
“The preliminary enquiry of the CBI gave a clean chit to Deshmukh. His real crime was as Home Minister, he took certain steps which the BJP government at the Centre led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not like,” Sawant claimed.
However, the BJP leaders have welcomed the action against Deshmukh and warned that the next target would be Sena Minister Anil Parab, with many more to follow soon. -IANS