Chhagan Bhujbal granted bail by Bombay High Court after two years
Bail was granted considering his old age and deteriorating health
Chhagan Bhujbal/ File Pic
The Bombay High Court on Friday granted bail to NCP leader and former Maharashtra deputy chief minister Chhagan Bhujbal, more than two years after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate in a money laundering case. Bail was granted considering his old age and deteriorating health.
Justice P N Deshmukh directed the 70-year-old leader to submit either a personal bond of Rs 5 lakh or a cash surety of the same amount by May 14. The judge took into consideration, among other issues, his old age and deteriorating health. A detailed order is yet to be made available.
The high court imposed several conditions on the Nationalist Congress Party leader. He will have to appear before the ED whenever required for questioning, and before the trial court when the trial begins, it said.
Bhujbal was also directed not to leave the city without the trial court's permission. He must not make any attempt to influence the trial or the witnesses or tamper with the evidence, Justice Deshmukh said, warning that the bail will be cancelled if any of these conditions are breached.
Bhujbal, who handled the Public Works Department in the Congress-NCP government, was arrested in March 2016 after an ED inquiry found that he allegedly misused his office in awarding contracts for PWD projects, causing a loss to the exchequer.
According to the ED, Bhujbal awarded contracts including the one for the construction of a new Maharashtra Sadan -- the state guest house -- in Delhi to a private firm allegedly in return for kickbacks for himself and his family. He and his nephew Sameer Bhujbal channelled the ill-gotten money into shell companies, the agency alleged.
Sameer Bhujbal, a former MP, was subsequently arrested and his bail plea is still pending before the high court.
In December last year, a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) court here rejected Chhagan Bhujbal's bail application.
He had contended that he had recently undergone angioplasty, and was suffering from various ailments which needed medical attention.
The court, however, ruled that government hospitals were capable of providing adequate treatment to him.He moved the high court earlier this year seeking bail citing a Supreme Court order of November last year that struck down section 45 of the PMLA. The section imposed restrictions on grant of bail to a person arrested under the Act.
He also urged the high court to consider his age, his ill-health, and the fact that the probe against him was complete and a charge sheet had been filed. Vikram Chaudhary, his lawyer, argued that several other accused facing charges under the PMLA were granted bail by courts across the country after the apex court's order.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who appeared for the ED, opposed the bail plea, arguing that though section 45 of the PMLA has been struck down, Chhagan Bhujbal could still be presumed prima facie guilty for the offence of money laundering under section 24 of the Act.
Under section 24, the burden of proving that his properties are "untainted" lay on the accused, Singh submitted.
His lawyer said that section 24 is to be dealt with at the time of trial and not during a bail hearing. He has been lodged at Arthur Road Jail here since his arrest.
Edited by mid-day online desk, with inputs from PTI
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