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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

HC refuses stay, Choksi to be tried under Fugitive Economic Offenders Act

mumbai Updated: Dec 05, 2019 01:20 IST
Kanchan Chaudhari
Kanchan Chaudhari

The Bombay high court (HC) on Wednesday refused to stay proceedings under the Fugitive Economic Offenders (FEO) Act, 2018, against absconding businessman Mehul Choksi, who is a prime accused in the ₹13,500-crore fraud at Punjab National Bank (PNB). In 2018, Choksi surrendered his Indian citizenship and became a citizen of Antigua and Barbuda after fleeing the country, just before he was named in the case. Represented by legal counsel in court, Choksi has not returned to India since.

On January 31, a special court under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) had rejected Choksi’s plea seeking an opportunity to cross-examine the 21 witnesses cited by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in its case against him under the FEO Act, 2018. Choksi then moved HC. He had also filed a plea seeking a stay on the FEO proceedings before the PMLA court in Mumbai.

Choksi’s application alleged that the PMLA court had dismissed his earlier petition without considering the grounds and implications of a person being declared as a fugitive offender under the FEO Act, 2018. He had also contended that he should be given an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses as the correctness of their allegations may only be tested by cross-examination. Finally, Choksi contended that principles of natural justice mandated that he, as an accused, had the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses cited against him.

A division bench of justices BP Dharmadhikari and Sadhana Jadhav on Wednesday rejected Choksi’s plea. This clears the way for proceedings against Choksi to continue in the PMLA court.