City Co-operative Bank ‘fraud’: Bombay HC refuses relief to Shiv Sena’s Anandrao Adsul in ED case

Adsul also sought the ED to be restrained from issuing any further summons or warrants and sought protection from any coercive action.

The Bombay High Court Friday refused to grant an immediate relief to Shiv Sena leader and former MP Anandrao Adsul, who has challenged the case registered against him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in connection with an alleged Rs 980-crore fraud at City Co-operative Bank.

A division bench of Justice S S Shinde and Justice N J Jamadar was hearing Adsul’s plea filed on September 29.

The plea, argued by advocate Abhinav Chandrachud, sought quashing of the proceedings against him in the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) registered in the case and challenging the summons issued against Adsul.

Adsul also sought the ED to be restrained from issuing any further summons or warrants and sought protection from any coercive action.

Chandrachud claimed that “arbitrary” action was being taken against his client and same “smack of political vendetta” and “selective approach” by the agency, as he had filed a plea against a “leader from Opposition party”, Independent MP from Amravati, Navneet Kaur-Rana, whose caste certificate was cancelled and confiscated by the High Court in June.

Kaur-Rana had won the 2019 Lok Sabha elections after the Congress-NCP combined extended support to her, leading to her defeating then sitting MP Adsul. Her husband Ravi Rana, an Independent MLA, pledged his support to BJP after the 2019 state assembly election.

The ED probe on City Co-operative Bank is based on a complaint filed by Adsul, the former chairman of the bank, with the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Mumbai Police alleging misappropriation of funds through loans and illegal transfers by bank officials. Adsul had alleged that loans were doled out to entities and individuals with very low or no collateral.

The ED is now also probing the role of Adsul and his son Abhijeet, a director in the board of the bank, as it was allegedly found that Adsul was a beneficiary of some of the loans given by the bank.

City Co-operative Bank, with 14 branches in the city and 90,000 depositors, has been placed under restrictions by the Reserve Bank of India since April 2018.

Adsul, in his plea said the ED stepped in only at the instance of Navneet Kaur-Rana, Ravi Rana and BJP leader Kirit Somaiya.

The Shiv Sena leader claimed that ED proceedings are against his personal liberty. “Petitioner is being treated as an accused in the proceedings initiated by ED. In such circumstances, recording his statements and collecting documents from him without following procedure laid down under Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) is not only gross violation of said law but also violation of petitioner’s fundamental rights under Article 20 of constitution, in as much as the petitioner is being compelled to be witness against himself,” the petition stated.

On Monday, September 27, Adsul was admitted to the hospital after he complained of ill health during the ED questioning. The court was informed that he was being shifted to the other hospital Thursday.

The ED, represented by Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, opposed Adsul’s plea saying that the summons issued had no connection with the “political rivalry” and the elections and was based on the money laundering case.

Singh denied allegations of violation of procedures under PMLA and said that the person may not be accused of the original crime and can be a complainant but the agency has to trace where the proceeds of crime have gone.

He added that the case is still being investigated and it is at the stage of issuing summons and it is up to the agency as to how it wants to probe further.

The bench orally commented, “It is not uncommon for an informant to become an accused. We are not inclined to grant any relief today.”

After Chandrachud sought time to amend the plea with additional grounds of challenge, the High Court allowed the same and posted the matter for further hearing on October 8.

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