The special PMLA court on Thursday slammed the enforcement directorate (ED) for not having sufficient grounds for the police custody of Chhagan Bhujbal and remanded him in judicial custody till March 31.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader was arrested in a money laundering case involving around Rs870 crore earlier this week.
The central agency sought that Bhujbal be kept in police custody for seven days, claiming he had not cooperated during the investigation and raised false alarms about his health. The agency said owing to this time was wasted, he could not be brought face to face with two key witnesses and his nephew Sameer , who is also in judicial custody.
Rejecting the agency’s plea, special PMLA judge PR Bhavake said, “The enforcement directorate has not made out sufficient grounds for the accused’s custody .” The court also said that apart from the statement of the accused and confrontation with the other accused, the agency should also collect independent evidence.
“The agency has to collect independent evidence against the accused, there is no question of any confrontation of the statement of the witnesses with the interrogation of accused,” the court observed.
The central agency, while seeking further custody of Bhujbal contended that they had very short time and lot of time was lost in his medical check-up as he repeatedly complained about chest pain.
Special public prosecutor of ED Hiten Venegaokar contended that he is the key accused in the case. “Several witnesses have stated that he was the source of the money that was laundered by Sameer, his nephew, by way of layered transactions in cash and cheques,” he said.
Meanwhile, the agency said that during the little time they had they confronted Chhagan with the statements of the witnesses and Sameer and he said he had no knowledge of the financial dealings and they were handled by Sameer.
Objecting to the remand plea, defence pleaded that Bhujbal is 69 years old and he is suffering from several health issues, including severe asthma and objected to ED’s demand to confront him with the witnesses’ statements.