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The Gujarat High Court today rejected suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma's application seeking bail in a money laundering case against him being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate. Justice A J Desai turned down Sharma's plea. Sharma's lawyer R J Goswami submitted that a charge sheet has already been filed by the probing agency in the case, in which the maximum imprisonment is of seven years. He said Sharma has already been granted bail in related offences on the basis of which the ED made out the case against him. He also argued that Section 45 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), 2002, which requires government pleader to submit evidence against the accused before the court that is hearing the bail plea, does not apply to Sharma. The lawyer also submitted that there is no evidence on record to show that Sharma transferred the money in question into the account of his US-based wife. The ED opposed the contention and said since this is a case of money laundering, Section 45 of the PMLA is applicable and the HC should hear the government pleader and consider evidence against Sharma while deciding on his bail plea. Sharma, a Gujarat cadre IAS officer, was arrested on July 31 last year under the provisions of PMLA after the Supreme Court vacated an interim stay on his arrest. He is presently lodged at Sabarmati Central Jail here. The ED registered a case against Sharma on the basis of cases lodged by CID (crime) and Anti-Corruption Bureau of state government. The cases were related to alleged sanctioning of government land at cheaper rate to Welspun India Ltd and its group companies, Welspun Power and Steel and Welspun Gujarat Style Roharan in Kutch district, as part of a suspected quid pro quo, the ED said. The probing agency said Sharma sanctioned land to the company in 2004 when he was the Collector and Chairman of District Land Evaluation and Pricing Committee of Kutch district.
This allegedly caused a loss to the government exchequer to the tune of Rs 1.2 crore. Against this favour, he received a gain to the tune of Rs 22 lakh in the name of his wife Shyamal P Sharma, the ED alleged. He allegedly transferred the money to his wife's account using hawala channel with the help of five persons, who are also named in the ED's charge sheet. Sharma had earlier filed a petition in the Supreme Court alleging that he was victimised by the then Narendra Modi government in Gujarat and had sought a CBI inquiry into the cases against him. The apex court had, however, rejected his application.
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