HC stays suspended IAS Pradeep Sharma's arrest in graft case

Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court today stayed the arrest of suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma in a case of alleged sale of a state government land at a cheaper rate to a private company in Kutch district during 2003-2004.

Justice J B Pardiwala ordered that Sharma will not be arrested till the next hearing of the case on March 11 after his pre-arrest bail petition.

The High Court has also sent notices to the state government and the probe agency of the case -- the Enforcement Directorate (ED) -- in connection with the petition which alleged that the authorities had acted against Sharma with a malafide intention coupled with political vendetta.

The authorities, including the state government and the ED, had acted against Sharma as his brother and a Gujarat- cadre IPS officer Kuldeep Sharma was at loggerheads with the state government, said the petition.

Advocate R J Goswami, appearing for the suspended IAS officer, today contended before the High Court that there is no need to arrest his client for the custodial interrogation as the case is based on documentary evidence.

Besides, Sharma has been granted regular bail in all the related cases in the matter, said Goswami.

Sharma moved the pre-arrest bail petition before the High Court as Principle District Judge S C Srivastava of the PMLA (Prevention of Money- Laundering Act) court had on February 25 rejected his anticipatory bail plea.

During March 2012, the ED had registered a case against Sharma under PMLA for allegedly selling government land at a cheaper rate to Kutch-based Welspun Group when he was the collector of Kutch during 2003-04.

As per the ED's complaint, Sharma had alloted land to Welspun at 25 per cent of prevailing market rates which gave illegal benefits to the company and loss of around Rs 1.2 crore to the state exchequer.

In return, the Welspun company made wife of Sharma a 30 per cent partner in one of its subsidiary Value Packaging without any investment on her part, and extended benefits of Rs 29.5 lakhs to her, as per the complaint.

The money was first deposited in Sharma's wife account and then transferred to his account, the ED's complaint said. Apart from the ED, the state CID-Crime as well as the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) has filed seperate FIRs against him in the same case earlier.
Sharma was arrested by the ACB on September 30, last year for allegedly accepting a bribe of Rs 29 lakh from the private company when he was Collector of Kutch.

Sharma came out of jail as a Bhuj-based local court granted him conditional bail in the same graft case on January 29, this year.

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