A white collar crime involving and affecting the nation's economy has to be considered seriously, a special court here observed while denying bail to former Maharashtra minister Anil Deshmukh in a corruption case probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader was arrested on November 2, 2021 and has been in judicial custody. He is currently admitted to a private hospital for coronary angiography.
The special CBI court on Friday rejected Deshmukh's bail plea and the copy of the same was made available on Saturday.
The court observed that the investigation had established the factum of collection of money from bar owners and delivery of the same to Deshmukh through Kundan Shinde (a former aide), who is also accused in the case.
"In the present case, so far it is clear that a huge amount affecting the economy of nation is involved. Such a white collar crime involving and affecting the economy of the nation has to be considered seriously," the court said in its order.
The entire community is aggrieved if economic offenders who ruin the economy of the state are not brought to books, it said.
"A murder may be committed in the heat the moment upon passions being aroused. An economic offence is committed with cool calculation and deliberate design with an eye on persons profit regardless of the consequences to the community," the order said.
Special CBI court judge S H Gwalani noted that there was an active involvement of Deshmukh in the offence of corruption and attempt to obtain undue advantage of his public duty for improper and dishonest performance.
"Considering the seriousness of the offence, the manner in which crime is committed, likelihood of the accused fleeing from justice and tampering with prosecution witnesses, I am of the view that in order to prevent such type of serious offence, it is not proper to release applicant (Deshmukh) on bail," the order said.
"A disregard for the interest of the community can be manifested only at the cost of forfeiting the trust and faith of the community in the system to administer justice in an even-handed manner without fear of criticism from the quarters which view white-collar crimes with a permissive eye unmindful of the damage done to the national economy and national interest," it stated.
The bench noted that investigation with regard to Deshmukh exercising influence over police transfers and postings was still on.
"Therefore, at this stage it cannot be said that there is no prima facie case is made out against accused No 1 (Deshmukh). Thus, in my considered opinion applicant is not entitled to be enlarged on bail," the court said.
It further noted that the statements of witnesses, specifically dismissed policeman Sachin Waze's, cannot be overlooked and the same play a very important role.
The court said that at the stage of granting bail, a detailed examination of evidence and merits of the case need not be undertaken and that there is only a need to indicate why bail cannot be granted in cases where the accused is charged with a serious offence.
Citing the statement of Waze, who is an approver in the case, the court said that he always referred to Deshmukh as "number one".
"Deshmukh directed Waze to collect an amount of Rs 40 to 50 crore per month from such bars. The factum of demand and collection of money from bar owners is well corroborated and established," the court said.
Prima facie, it is also established that bar owners were put in fear of loss of their business unless they paid money, the court said.
In March 2021, senior IPS officer Param Bir Singh had alleged that Deshmukh, the then home minister, had given a target to police officers to collect Rs 100 crore per month from restaurants and bars in Mumbai.
Waze, who was arrested in the 'Antilia' bomb scare case in March 2021, had levelled similar allegations against him.
The high court in April 2021 directed the CBI to carry out a preliminary inquiry. Based on this inquiry, a first information report (FIR) was registered against Deshmukh and his associates for alleged corruption and misuse of official power.
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