Court refuses to drop PMLA proceedings against Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal’s son, nephew

A special court here on Friday rejected the plea filed by Maharashtra minister Chhagan Bhujbal’s son Pankaj and nephew Sameer Bhujbal, seeking dropping of proceedings against them in a money laundering case for want of a scheduled offence.

Special court judge R N Rokade, while rejecting their plea, said there is no such provision in the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) for dropping of proceedings.

Pankaj, Sameer and 51 others were charged by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2016 under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for various matters, including the alleged Maharashtra Sadan scam.

In September last year, Pankaj and Sameer Bhujbal had moved the plea, saying that in light of the Supreme Court guidelines, a case under the PMLA cannot continue if there is no scheduled offence. Citing this, they pleaded for dropping the proceedings against them in the money laundering case.

As per the PMLA provisions, a prior First Information Report (FIR) (scheduled offence) is a requisite for the ED to initiate action against a person involved with the process or activity.

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The ED complaint against Pankaj, Sameer and others is based on an FIR registered by the Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) in a case pertaining to Maharashtra Sadan scam and cheating case filed by local police in the construction of a proposed residential building in Navi Mumbai. They have been discharged in both the cases.

The plea, filed through advocates Vijay Agarwal and Sudarshan Khawase, said that in light of the apex court guidelines, the special court has no jurisdiction to proceed further against the accused since they have been absolved of the scheduled offence.

Chhagan Bhujbal, the Food and Civil Supplies Minister in the Eknath Shinde-led government, is also an accused in the case, but he has not been named in the plea as his discharge application in one of the ACB cases is still pending. Chhagan Bhujbal is a leader of the Ajit Pawar-led faction of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which joined the state government in July this year.

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