The IRS officer under investigation writes to police commissioner claiming threats to himself and his family, says he fears for his life
The NCB filed a response before the court, asserting that there were no violations of the law in Sameer Wankhede’s case
In a significant development, the Bombay High Court granted extension of the interim protection until June 8 to controversial IRS officer Sameer Wankhede, dealing a major setback to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), as the CBI had requested an additional two weeks to submit its reply.
On Monday, the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) filed a response before the court, asserting that there were no violations of the law in Wankhede’s case and that the necessary sanction under Section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act was obtained within the prescribed 21-day period. During the previous hearing, Wankhede’s counsel argued that the four-month time limit had elapsed and deemed the FIR registered by the CBI as illegal.
“The departmental enquiries conducted by the Narcotics Control Bureau, by following the due process of law and the principles of natural justice, which were under the CCS (Conduct) Rules,1965, and the Report submitted by the SET dated 25.10.2021, is different from the criminal action being undertaken by the CBI which are simultaneous proceedings, having no effect and/or bearing on the other. Further, the NCB has obtained the requisite prior approval under Section 17A on 11.05.2023 which is within 3 months from the date of application i.e. 20.04.2023. Hence, there is no bar of Section 17A in present case,” (SIC) reads the response of the NCB filed before the court.
In its reply, the NCB has also highlighted the details of its vigilance report which talks about various irregularities by its Mumbai office and Wankhede while handling the Cordelia Cruise case and accused Aryan Khan. The affidavit filed by the NCB also has details of Wankhede’s assets and his foreign trips on misdeclared expenses.
During Monday’s proceedings, senior advocate Aabad Ponda represented Wankhede and highlighted that the CBI had been investigating the case since October 25, 2021, with the formation of a special enquiry team at that time. Ponda emphasized that the enquiry had been ongoing for over one and a half years, making Section 17A applicable in this situation. He further stated that Wankhede had received a Section 41A notice under the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and was fully cooperating with the investigation, thereby negating the need for his arrest. However, the public prosecutor representing the CBI argued that granting Wankhede interim relief would be prejudicial, claiming he would not cooperate and might tamper with evidence. The CBI also assured the court that if an arrest were to be made, they would provide appropriate reasons for it.
‘Didn’t leak chats’
Additionally, the public prosecutor raised concerns about Wankhede leaking chats with the father of one of the accused. It was revealed that the father had communicated with Wankhede about his son, who was in Wankhede’s custody. The prosecutor alleged that Wankhede was now using these chats to establish his own innocence. The court questioned Wankhede’s actions of leaking chats while the matter was still subjudice, and directed him to refrain from making any statements or releasing any further chats that could hinder the ongoing investigation. Ponda, speaking on Wankhede’s behalf, refuted the claim that he had leaked any chats, asserting that the press had accessed them from his petition filed before the court.
Ponda further asserted that Wankhede had taken action against influential individuals who are now attempting to retaliate. He explained that the chats were included in the affidavit due to corruption allegations made against Wankhede. Ponda highlighted that the father of the accused, Shahrukh Khan, himself referred to Wankhede as an upright officer and discussed the reformation of his son. Ponda questioned the logic behind such statements, stating, “If any money was asked, why would the father call him an upright officer?”
After hearing arguments from both sides, the court decided to extend the protection granted to Wankhede until June 8, while directing the CBI to submit its reply by June 3.
Wankhede on Monday has given a written complaint to Mumbai police commissioner alleging that he and his family have been receiving threats on social media and he needs protection as he fears for his life.