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Bombay HC denies bail to Chhagan Bhujbal; lower court orders him back to jail

The prison authorities had said Bhujbal refused to undergo angiography thrice after complaining of heart issues and his continued stay in the hospital would serve no purpose.

By: PTI | Mumbai |
December 14, 2016 11:29:12 pm
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The Bombay High Court today rejected the bail plea of Maharashtra’s former PWD Minister Chhagan Bhujbal and dismissed his petition challenging the legality of his arrest under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). Also, the special court for PMLA cases directed that 69-year-old Bhujbal be shifted back to Arthur Road jail from the J J Hospital here. The prison authorities had said Bhujbal refused to undergo angiography thrice after complaining of heart issues and his continued stay in the hospital would serve no purpose.

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The High Court, which rejected Bhujbal’s bail plea, said he failed to show that his arrest was illegal. “He has further failed to show that the Special Court passed the remand order mechanically without application of mind,” said the division bench of Justices Ranjit More and Shalini Phansalkar.

Bhujbal had sought bail from the High Court on medical grounds. He also contended that his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) was not as per the procedure established by law. The NCP leader had filed a ‘Habeas Corpus’ petition, saying that his arrest was illegal.

Opposing the petition, the ED lawyer contended that Bhujbal, who was arrested on March 14 this year, had not filed such a plea earlier.

Bhujbal was arrested in the alleged Maharashtra Sadan scam and Kalina land case, where he and his relatives were alleged to have received kickbacks from private contractor.

He had challenged the constitutional validity of sections 19 and 45 of PMLA. Section 19 empowers the ED to arrest a person based on evidence gathered by it, while section 45 deals with bail.

The HC observed, “Having regard to the gravity of the offence, the very object of PMLA would be frustrated if the petitioner projects some loophole or infirmity in the implementation of the provisions of the Act in order to get his release.”

The provisions of PMLA or any law should be interpreted to advance the “substantial cause of justice”, it said.

“We do not find that there was any such lacunae, infirmity or, much less, illegality in the arrest and detention of the petitioner,” said the division bench.

The judges quoted a Supreme Court judgement in Hasan Ali Khan case, where the apex court held that in corruption cases, allegations may not ultimately be established, but the burden of proof to show that the money was not the proceeds of crime lies on the accused under section 24 of PMLA.

Quoting another Supreme Court ruling, the bench said economic offences, having deep-rooted conspiracy and involving huge loss of public funds, should be considered as grave offences affecting the economy and posing serious threat to the financial health of the country.

ED had sufficient evidence prior to Bhujbal’s arrest, the court said, therefore “neither the arrest nor the detention of petitioner can be called as illegal”.

The High Court also did not agree with Bhujbal’s argument that there were procedural lapses in arresting him.

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