Calling his arrest illegal and a “witch-hunt”, a special court granted bail to Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut on Wednesday, over three months after his arrest in connection with a redevelopment project in the northern suburbs of Mumbai. The court also rapped the Enforcement Directorate (ED) stating that it had used the exceptional powers of arrest “very casually”.
Special judge M G Deshpande said that Raut and his co-accused Pravin Raut, who was also granted bail, were arrested “for no reasons” by the central agency. The court said that Raut’s house was raided on July 31 and he was not allowed to move anywhere throughout the day. He was then taken to the ED office and shown to have been arrested at 12.35am on August 1. The court said there was no legal necessity to arrest him at midnight when he could not avail of the benefits of the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.
“But the ED appears to have ignored the same. His presence could have been secured by way of summons and not by the way in which he was arrested late at night,” the court said.
“It is pertinent to note that after such an unusual midnight arrest of Sanjay Raut, and even during the first ED custody period, he was kept in a windowless room where only four walls were around him. [Raut] pointed out that he had undergone angioplasty twice and there are six stents in his heart. He also made a complaint before this court [about] how he was kept in a room where there is absolutely no ventilation… It is only then due to the court intervention he could get a room with some ventilation in ED custody. All this prima facie indicates that his arrest is nothing but witch-hunt and the annihilation of his valuable rights,” the court added.
The court also held that the main accused in the case, Rakeshkumar Wadhawan and Sarang Wadhawan, promoters of HDIL, as well as government officials responsible for the “misdeeds” of the two between 2006-2018 were never arrested.
“Rakesh and Sarang for their misdeeds and being the main accused persons admitted the same by affidavit of Sarang Wadhawan, were not arrested by the ED but they have been left scot-free. But at the same time, Pravin Raut was arrested for civil dispute, whereas Sanjay Raut for no reason. All this clearly indicates disparity, pick-and-choose attitude of the ED and the court cannot put a premium on the same but is legally bound to make parity,” the court said.
The ED case relates to the redevelopment of the Patra Chawl in Goregaon where it has been claimed that instead of providing houses for displaced residents, directors of the infrastructure company HDIL and a company named Guru Ashish Constructions-linked to Pravin cheated them.
The central agency alleges that a total amount of Rs 1,039.70 crore was received in the accounts of HDIL and Guru Ashish Constructions, and that Rs 112 crore of this was received by Pravin Raut. It claimed that Rs 1.06 crore was received from Pravin by Raut through their wives.
The court pointed out discrepancies in the statements of main witnesses and said there was nothing to show that any money received from Pravin by Raut was proceeds of crime.
The court also pulled up the ED for the slow progress in trials under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.
“I am constrained to note that, not a single trial right from the establishment of this designated court, the ED has concluded by leading evidence and the court could not give a single judgment right from the last decade,” the court said.