Eknath Khadse not an accused as per ECIR: ED informs Bombay HC
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), while arguing the petition filed by Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Eknath Khadse seeking quashing of the enforcement case information report (ECIR) and proceedings related to it, said that the petition was premature and not maintainable as the report is not a first information report (FIR) and does not declare Khadse to be an accused. ED also submitted that Khadse’s plea to quash future summons was also not valid as investigators needed to question him regarding a Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) case against him.
The case pertains to the purchase of a plot in Bhosari by Khadse’s kin for ₹3.75 crore, against the prevalent market rate of ₹30 crore. The plot’s ownership was contentious as the industries department acquired it in 1971, but the final award of the plot was not granted, and the owner had not been compensated for it.
However, Khadse’s counsel submitted that his client was apprehending arrest for non-cooperation when he would respond to the summons and would choose to remain silent, hence the petition was valid. The counsel also refuted ED’s claim that Khadse was not an accused, pointing out that the ECIR was based on a 2017 FIR, wherein Khadse was named as the first accused. The court will continue hearing arguments on January 28.
A division bench of justice SS Shinde and justice Manish Pitale, while hearing the petition filed by Khadse, was informed by additional solicitor general Anil Singh for ED that the petition was premature and not maintainable. “The ECIR is not an FIR but an internal document for administrative purposes, hence the petitioner is not being considered as an accused by the investigating agency,” said Singh.
He further referred to various judgements wherein courts had rejected petitions seeking to quash ECIRs on the grounds that in PMLA cases, interrogation of all persons involved was necessary.
However senior counsel Aabad Ponda refuted the submissions saying that if ED was willing to make a statement that they would not arrest Khadse when he went for interrogation, then he would be willing to withdraw the petition.
He further added that ED would not make a statement of not arresting Khadse as they intended to arrest him for non-cooperation in the event of Khadse choosing to remain silent and not divulging any information.
Ponda further submitted that as his client was in the ICU and there was an obvious threat of being arrested by ED, the petition was not premature and the court should decide on it.
After hearing the submissions, justice Pitale sought to know from Ponda to elaborate on how ED would arrest Khadse under section 50 of the PMLA, which deals with summoning a person for interrogation. Ponda responded saying that ED would invoke section 19 of the PMLA in case of non-cooperation and hence the plea for quashing future summons was valid.
The court then directed ED to continue its assurance of no coercive action against Khadse till the next hearing on January 28.