The Bombay High Court on Wednesday refused to interfere in the public auction of high value paintings that belong to fugitive businessman Nirav Modi, that is scheduled to take place on Thursday.
Division bench of Acting Chief Justice BP Dharmadhikari and Justice NR Borkar were hearing a petition filed by Rohin Modi, Nirav Modi's son wh claimed that the paintings belonged to the Rohin Modi Trust of which he was the beneficiary not his father and thus the said paintings cannot be auctioned.
However, the bench refused any relief observing that the petitioner had approached the Court at the 'eleventh hour'.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh and Hiten Venegaokar appeared on behalf of the Enforcement Directorate and opposed the petition arguing that both Nirav and his wife were beneficiaries of the Rohin Modi Trust. They also submitted that the paintings had been attached in 2019, only the advertisement (for auction) was notified in 2020.
Senior Advocate Amit Desai appeared for the petitioner and submitted that proceeds from the painting cannot be considered as proceeds from a crime, hence they cannot be auctioned.
"The Rohin Trust has not approached this court, neither have the other beneficiaries of the trust, (Nirav Modi and his wife) approached this court. There is no attempt to justify the late approach. In this situation, we are not inclined to pass interim orders. The ED shall file its affidavit in response to the plea by March."
Thereafter, the Court directed the Enforcement Directorate to deposit the auction proceeds in a separate bank account and not to utilize the funds until further orders.
The said paintings were seized from Nirav Modi's properties in raids conducted by ED after a case of money laundering was registered against him and Mehul Choksi for committing a fraud upon Punjab National Bank worth over Rs.13,000 cr. Luxury cars and other expensive accessories owned by Nirav Modi will also be auctioned.