A special court here has directed the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to return the passports of former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh’s two sons, who are accused in a money laundering case.
The court, however, said that the duo – Hrishikesh and Salil Deshmukh – must not leave the country without its permission.
While allowing their pleas on Wednesday, special court judge R N Rokade, hearing cases pertaining to the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), noted that the court has to consider the antecedents of the accused, the nature of offence, necessity for his presence at the trial and other such relevant factors.
“At the same time, the court has to strike a balance between the personal liberty of the accused guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution and the interest of the society as well as rights of the prosecution,” it added.
The Deshmukh brothers were arraigned as accused in the chargesheet filed by the ED. The probe agency, however, never arrested the duo.
In November 2022, they were granted bail by the special court and one of the conditions was to submit their passports to the probe agency.
Advocate Inderpal Singh, while seeking modification in the bail conditions of Hrishikesh, submitted that the latter is engaged in business management and needs to attend workshops and training sessions, where he can gain practical skills and strategies for optimising business operations.
He will also attend the conference organised by a science society in Japan. The applicant has to attend the International Conference on Logics in Artificial Intelligence to learn the cutting edge developments in the field, the lawyer submitted.
For Salil, the advocate argued that the applicant is a young dynamic leader of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and is a member of Zilla Parishad since 2020.
He has to attend party meetings for the upcoming elections to promote its agenda amongst the youth across Maharashtra to strengthen the party organisation. Therefore, he may be permitted to retain his passport till the final hearing and disposal of the trial, Singh submitted.
The central probe agency opposed their pleas, saying the case pending against them was very serious in nature and there was every likelihood of the applicants fleeing the country.
The court, however, said that merely being prosecuted under the provisions of the PMLA is not sufficient to deny the duo their passports.
“Apprehension of the prosecution can be addressed by imposing stringent conditions on the applicant. Having regard to the entire gamut of the circumstances, I am of the considered view that this is a fit case to grant permission to return the passport,” the court added.
The ED began its probe against Anil Deshmukh, his family members and his former associates after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed an FIR against him over allegations of extortion made by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
The ED claimed that Anil Deshmukh had misused his official position and collected Rs 4.70 crore from various bars and restaurants in Mumbai.
The money was channelled to a Nagpur-based educational trust controlled by the Deshmukh family, according to the ED.