The Bombay High Court on Wednesday granted anticipatory bail to BJP leader Kirit Somaiya and his son, Neil, in a case alleging swindling of funds that were collected to save warship INS Vikrant.
Justice Bharati Dangre made absolute an earlier interim order granting them relief after the Mumbai Police represented by Senior Counsel Shirish Gupte submitted that no proof was found to substantiate allegations alleging swindling of nearly Rs. 57 crore.
"When the govt intended to retire the vessel as it had outlived its usefulness…it is alleged that under the guise of reviving it, huge amount of money was collected...On the last date of hearing the prosecution was asked the approximate amount that was collected. Today the Senior counsel said 57 crores was allegedly collected, but there is no proof," the court said in the order.
The court further noted that notice under section 41 A CrPC has been issued to the accused. They were ordered to appear before the police on 17 and 18 August, 2022. And an earlier order granting them interim bail on April 14, 2022 was made absolute.
The senior advocate had submitted to the court that a 72 hours notice would be given if they wished to arrest the accused. The Somaiyas were represented by Advocate Hrishikesh Mundargi.
The FIR at Mumbai's Trombay Police Station by a retired army personnel, Baban Bhimrao Bhosale, was registered under sections 406, 420 and 34 of the IPC.
Somaiya approached the High Court after the sessions court rejected his anticipatory bail plea.
According to the police the complainant on learning Somaiya had launched a campaign to "save INS Vikrant", had himself donated Rs 2,000 in cash for the campaign.
The complaint further alleged that Somaiya had, in December 2013, tweeted that he was meeting the Governor of Maharashtra with a demand to save the warship and that citizens of Mumbai were willing to donate Rs 140 crore to save it.
The complaint, based on media reports, alleges that Somaiya had collected around Rs 57 crore for that purpose from outside various railway stations in the city, but it was never used for the same as the ship was dismantled and sold in scrap in 2014. According to the complaint, an application under the Right to Information Act to Maharashtra Governor's office said that Somaiya had not deposited any money with the Governor's office in that regard.
Somaiya claimed that the complaint was filed belatedly a day after a political leader (Sanjay Raut) alleged Rs. 57 crore was misappropriated.
Moreover, he stated that the amount mentioned in the politician's (Sanjay Raut) interview was also reflected in the FIR of April 7, 2022. He said that the service man was aware the ship was scrapped due to lack of funds in 2014.
Citation : 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 283