COVID-19 body bags purchase ‘scam’: HC grants interim protection from arrest to ex-Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar

The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted interim protection from arrest for four weeks to former Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar in connection with an alleged scam in the purchase of body bags for COVID-19 victims.

A single bench of Justice N J Jamadar while granting relief to Pednekar noted the case probe was on and at this stage custodial interrogation was not warranted.

“The issue of custodial interrogation can be considered during the final hearing of the matter. I am inclined to protect the liberty of the applicant (Pednekar) for a period of four weeks,” the judge said.

In the event of arrest, Pednekar shall be released after furnishing a personal bond of Rs 30,000, the HC said.

The court directed Pednekar to cooperate with the probe in the case and appear before the city police’s Economic Offences Wing on September 11, 13 and 16 for questioning from 10 am to 1 pm.

The bench would hear the matter again after four weeks.

Pednekar approached HC after a sessions court last week rejected her pre-arrest bail plea, saying she was accused of an economic offence involving a huge amount of public money.

Mumbai police’s Economic Offences Wing (EOW) registered a case against Pednekar and two senior officials of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) under various Indian Penal Code sections including 420 (cheating) and 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), based on a complaint filed by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya.

It was alleged that there was a misappropriation of funds and irregularities in the management of health facilities and purchase of body bags for deceased coronavirus patients, masks and other items by the BMC during the pandemic.

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Pednekar was Mumbai mayor from November 2019 till March 2022 when the term of the BMC’s general body ended. Fresh civic elections are yet to be held.

In her pre-arrest bail plea, Pednekar claimed she was falsely implicated in the case and the complaint against her was politically motivated.

She claimed the case was lodged only after the split in the Shiv Sena party and that she is being targeted as she belongs to the Uddhav Thackeray faction.

Pednekar further alleged that the complainant in the case Kirit Somaiya, a former Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai, was a habitual complainant who has a history of targeting politicians who do not owe allegiance to his party.

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