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Prima Facie Offence Of Money Laundering Not Made Out: Bombay High Court Grants Bail To Anil Deshmukh's Former Secretary Sanjeev Palande

Sharmeen Hakim
21 Dec 2022 7:10 AM GMT
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The Bombay High Court granted bail to Sanjeev Palande, personal secretary and co-accused of former state home minister & NCP leader Anil Deshmukh in the money laundering case being investigated by ED.

"This material, taken at its face value, is not sufficient to rope in the applicant for the offence of money laundering. The capacity in which the applicant rendered the services at the office of Mr. Anil Deshmukh cannot be lost sight of…I am impelled to hold that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the applicant is not guilty of the offence of money laundering," Justice NJ Jamadar said.

Palande was arrested in June 2021 and booked under section 4 read with 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA) along with several others.

The ED alleged that he was instrumental in passing on instructions of Deshmukh to Sachin Waze regarding extortion of money from Orchestra Bar owners, and supervising and monitoring the collection of money. Secondly, that Palande had a role in the transfer and posting of police officers/ officials, and indulged in the laundering of money generated thereby.

The court noted that from the evidence on record at best it would be culled out that Palande was part of certain meetings Deshmukh had where the transfer list police officers was handed out to IAS Sitaram Kunte.

Moreover, inviting officers for the meetings, organizing the meetings and even attending the meetings are parts of the usual functions which a Private Secretary is expected to perform. No element of criminality can be attributed either for organizing the meeting or forwarding the lists at the instance of Mr. Anil Deshmukh, the court said.

Cannot Ignore Allegation That Param Bir Singh No. 1.

Justice NJ Jamadar observed that a police officer's statements contradicting the ED's entire case "cannot be brushed aside lightly." The officer alleged that dismissed cop Sachin Waze was collecting money from bar owners for then Mumbai Police CP Param Bir Singh and not Deshmukh. "Mr. Sanjay Patil (Then Head of the Social Service Branch) stated that Mr. Sachin Waze told him that the then Commissioner of Police was "No. 1" for whom the money was being collected."

Waze's Statement Unreliable

The court also noted Waze's contradictory statement before an enquiry commission wherein he denied ED's entire case, or that Palande had asked for any money for Deshmukh. "The credentials of Mr. Sachin Wasze as borne out by the material on record also assume significance. In short, the prosecution version, which heavily draws upon the statements of Mr. Sachin Waze to rope in the applicant, appears fragile."

Param Bir and Waze's Allegations Hearsay

The allegation of generation of proceeds of crime qua the applicant is sought to be sustained on the basis of statements of Mr. Sachin Waze and Mr. Param Bir Singh, the court noted.

"Evidently, both the witnesses claimed to have "learned" or "heard" that money changed hands. These statements ex-facie lack element of certainty as to the source, time and place. They prima facie appear to be hearsay."

Section 45 PMLA

Regarding the twin conditions under section 45 of PMLA that must be satisfied before granting bail the court observed that these restrictions have to be considered reasonably. A finding that the accused is not guilty of the offence and that he is not likely to commit an offence if released on bail, are required only to assess the entitlement of bail, the court noted.

"…it is not peremptory that the Court must arrive at a positive finding that the Applicant has not committed an offence under the Act," the bench said.

The court directed Palande's release on furnishing a PR Bond in the sum of Rs. 1 lakh. However, he will still not be released as he is in custody in the CBI case. While Palande was represented by Advocate Shekhar Jagtap, the ED was represented by ASG Anil Singh.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Bom) 508

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