Former home minister Anil Deshmukh told the Bombay High Court on Thursday that the proceedings initiated against him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an alleged money laundering case was “arbitrary” and questioned the manner in which the agency has conducted the probe.
While seeking interim protection from coercive action, Deshmukh said his intention is not to evade proceedings but to cooperate and join the probe to get an opportunity to “expose falseness and laxity” in the case initiated by ED. He also said that he apprehended arrest as ED is acting with “vendetta”.
A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal was hearing a plea filed by Deshmukh seeking quashing of summons issued by the ED, asking him to appear before it in connection with a money laundering and corruption case.
The ED has issued at least five summons to Deshmukh, asking him to appear before it. Deshmukh, however, has not complied with any of them.
He had written to the agency multiple times, requesting that he be questioned over video conference in view of the Covid-19 pandemic. Deshmukh has also moved the Supreme Court seeking a “fair and reasonable investigation”. In his application before the HC, filed through advocate Aniket Nikam, Deshmukh has sought permission to submit documents or statements to the agency through electronic mode and be represented through an “authorised agent”. He has also sought that the case be probed by a special investigation team comprising ED officers from outside the Mumbai zonal office.
The ED probe has claimed that Deshmukh, as home minister, had “received illegal gratification of approximately Rs 4.7 crore in cash from various orchestra bar owners” between December 2020 and February 2021.
On Thursday, senior counsel Vikram Chaudhri, representing Deshmukh, sought quashing of summons issued to his client since June 25 by invoking Prevention of Money Laundering Act. He claimed the same violated Deshmukh’s fundamental rights.
Chaudhri further said that Deshmukh has complied with the first summon and his authorised agent had appeared before ED. He added that ED had then issued a second summon, following which Deshmukh requested that he be allowed to appear through virtual mode. Chaudhri argued that ED, while not providing Deshmukh with a list of documents he had sought, had refused to share the copy of the Enforcement Case Information Report. The lawyer added that ED did not wait for the outcome of Deshmukh’s plea filed before the SC while issuing the third summon on August 2.
Chaudhri said that Deshmukh is a senior citizen with ailments, and has come in contact with several ED officers, who had visited him over the last few months, without any physical distancing. Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, representing ED, said that Deshmukh had sought similar reliefs in his plea before the SC.
The court will hear the matter on Friday.