No right to file plea: Mumbai Police on ED’s demand seeking transfer of Rs 58 crore extortion case to CBI

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The Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) of the Mumbai police has filed a reply to the petition responding to a plea filed by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an extortion case involving businessman Jitendra Navlani. Raising preliminary objection to the maintainability of the plea, the ACB said that the central agency has no locus standi to file a plea as neither they are officers nor accused in the case.

The ACB had filed an FIR against businessman Jitendra Navlani alleging that he extorted approximately Rs 58,96,46,108 from various private companies between 2015 and 2021 by posing as a liaison for officers of the ED. The FIR was filed on a complaint by Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut.

The financial watchdog, through its plea, is seeking the transfer of the investigation to the CBI. The ACB’s reply has been filed by Assistant Commissioner of Police Harshal Chavan, who has opposed the admission of the plea or even grant of any ad-interim relief to the ED.

WHAT DID ED SAY IN ITS PLEA?

The ED in its plea states that “The officers of the ED, although have not been named as accused in the FIR. However, from several public statements and tweets made by senior leaders of Shiv Sena including Sanjay Raut, it is evident that the investigation by the state police has been started with obvious purpose and will not be unbiased or objective, rather the entire action of registering a criminal case is clearly motivated to derail the statutory investigation and to keep the officers of ED under threat of malicious and vexatious criminal prosecution and to prevent them from exercising their legitimate statutory powers to unearth the offence of money laundering committed by several highly powerful politically exposed persons in Maharashtra.”

Replying to ED’s plea, ACB said that ED had no legal right or any other enforceable ED. It is breached by ACB. Hence, a written petition is not maintainable. It added that no ED officer is named or made an accused in the FIR, so no cause of action arose for the relief sought by ED or claimed inherent injustice. The reply added that this also meant that no sanction was required to be taken in this case.

SUSPICION OVER ED’S MOTIVE, SAYS ACB

ACB said that a private person posing as a public officer for undue advantage was serious offence and the timing of filing of the petition by the central agency creates suspicion about ED’s motive, indicating that the agency is trying to protect its officers by not allowing any investigation.

ACB also pointed out in the reply that the ‘so-called/alleged elite’ investigation agency was raising objections to booking Navlani, a private individual, under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

“The action by the petitioner (ED) against the high and mighty connected with the ruling dispensation in Maharashtra cannot be a ground under any law to restrain ACB from investigating into the offence prima facie made out,” it said.

After filing its reply, the ACB sent three letters to the ED asking if they wanted to file a rejoinder. But when ED’s plea came up for hearing on Wednesday, ACB had not filed a reply.

Meanwhile, during the hearing, the Bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and NR Borkar extended the relief that the high court had granted earlier by staying the investigation. The high court will now hear the petition in July.

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