Bombay HC extends interim relief to Navlani, ED officials till July 12

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday extended its interim relief till July 12 to Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials and businessman Jitendra Navlani in the central agency’s plea against FIR registered by Maharashtra Police Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) against Navlani and others in extortion and corruption cases.

The court extended protection from arrest to ED officials and Navlani till July 12 and posted the matter for further hearing on July 6.

The order by a division bench of Justices Nitin M Jamdar and NR Borkar came in response to ED’s plea against the case. The agency had claimed that the ACB had not taken any sanction from the central government under section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which was required to make a central agency official an accused in the case, as well as prior permission from the central government.

The police had initiated an inquiry into the allegations of extortion made against some ED officials and one Jeetendra Navlani based on claims in a letter addressed to the Mumbai Police commissioner.

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had earlier this year alleged that Navlani along with three other persons had “extorted Rs 300 crore from Mumbai’s 70 top builders on behalf of Enforcement Directorate officials”, adding that the racket was being run in connivance with certain leaders of the BJP. He had also alleged that ED officials were buying properties in foreign countries and funding BJP candidates with the “extorted money”.

Harshal Dattatray Chavan, assistant commissioner of police (ACP), ACB filed an affidavit opposing the ED’s plea. The affidavit stated that ACP Ganesh Kumbhar, who is with the ACB, had lodged a complaint after Sanjay Raut, on April 1, submitted a complaint against Navlani.

Raut had alleged that the modus-operandi of Navlani was to get in touch with companies facing inquiries by the ED, the petitioner.

Raut had claimed that “Navlani used to promise such companies to exercise either his personal influence or induce the officers to forbear to take action against them and in return would obtain undue advantage in terms of money from such companies and money received by him through his private limited companies”.

The affidavit stated, “The total sum of money involved in the 70 instances, as alleged by the complainant, is Rs. 58.9 crores… Verification of the complaint revealed the acceptance of huge amounts by Navlani from private companies under the guise of ‘unsecured loan’ and ‘consultancy fees’ from private companies, either in his own name or in the names of companies owned and controlled by him.”

It added, “Substance has been found in allegations made by Raut in his complaint and prima facie commission of cognizable offence by Navlani is disclosed. After registration of offence, Navlani, who is named as accused in the FIR, has not made himself available for the purpose of investigation and his advocates are giving the excuse that he has gone to London for the purpose of medical treatment.”

Chavan added that since no ED official is named as an accused in the FIR, a plea filed by ED is not maintainable and the same is premature and misconceived.

The police also said that ED’s plea seeking transfer of probe to an independent investigating agency such as the CBI to ensure impartial investigation cannot be entertained as the HC has to first ascertain whether there is sufficient material to come to a prima facie conclusion that there is a need for such an enquiry, and the same has not been provided by the petitioner agency. The police sought dismissal of the ED’s plea.

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