Opposing plea of former home minister Anil Deshmukh, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has said that his rights are like that of any other common citizen. Besides, the investigating agency has said that although Deshmukh claims before the court that he is willing to co-operate with the probe, he has not responded to a single summon issued to him since June this year.
The ED is responding to Deshmukh’s plea before the Bombay High Court challenging the summons issued to him by the investigating agency in a money laundering case filed against the former minister.
Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, appearing for the ED, said, “His right is like that of any other common citizen. You (Deshmukh) might have been a senior government official at one point in time. But right now, you are a common man subject to the due process of law. You don't have any privileges anymore.”
“However, it is because of his influence that he has been able to drag this matter for so long,” added Lekhi while denying allegations of the “malafide” intentions on the part of the ED.
The ED has issued five summons to Deshmukh which the NCP leader has skipped. On the other hand, the former home minister contends before the court that he is willing to cooperate with the ED. “He isn't appearing but just giving replies,” said Lekhi.
Lekhi said that the wants to question Deshmukh on the basis of the recoveries made from his premises during searches. “Searches were conducted at his premises and recoveries were made. Hence for further investigation we have issued summons to him,” said Lekhi. He further argued that Deshmukh was not above the law and was liable to appear before ED and respond to its summons. Besides, the ED was duty-bound to collect evidence in any case and bring the guilty to book.
The ED counsel also said that Deshmukh had filed a plea seeking quashing of summons and proceedings but the high court could not get into the realm of an investigator and verify the truth of the allegations against Deshmukh at the present stage.
Deshmukh’s counsel Vikram Chaudhri argued that the ED had initiated proceedings against him in an alleged case of money laundering based on allegations made by people, who were themselves accused of “heinous offences such as murder and extortion”.
Chaudhri said, “Those who have made these allegations against me are themselves accused of heinous offences such as murder, extortion. I needn't open a pandora's box.” He further told the HC that since the FIR was filed, more than 30 raids have been conducted by the ED, the CBI, and the Income Tax department. “My son's company, my Chartered Accountants are all being involved in the name of proceeds of crime. I want to appear before ED tomorrow but ED is calling a bogey against me of not cooperating,” argued Chaudhri.
To this, Lekhi responded that if Deshmukh was alleging malice, he (Deshmukh) must implead such persons as parties to his plea, whom he was accusing of being “murderers and extortionists”.
Apart from seeking that the ED be restrained from taking any coercive action against him, Deshmukh has prayed that he be permitted to record his statement through video conference facility.
The ED opposed the prayer saying that the former minister was earlier permitted to send an authorised representative instead of making physical appearance. However, Deshmukh insisted on getting a copy of the ECIR registered against him before responding to the summon.
“He (Deshmukh) began nitpicking on language and expression used in the summon. He is a self-centred individual who thinks he is above the law,” argued Lekhi adding, “In the next summon, ED explained the situation to him and asked him to appear in person to help confirm the evidence collected.”
The ED had initiated money-laundering investigation on May 11, on the basis of an FIR under Section 120-B of IPC, 1860 and section 7 of Prevention of Corruption Act 1988 registered by CBI against Deshmukh and others for allegedly attempting to obtain undue advantage for the improper and dishonest performance of their public duty for collection of funds to achieve the target of Rs 100 crore per month from various bars, restaurants and other establishments in Mumbai.
Deshmukh also refuted the ED’s claims that while serving as home minister, he misused his official position and through police officer Sachin Waze collected rupees 4.70 crore from various bars and restaurants across the city.
After hearing both the counsels, a division bench of justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal reserved order in Deshmukh’s plea.