ED’s action against him is malicious, Deshmukh tells HC

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Mumbai: Former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh argued before the Bombay High Court on Thursday that the action initiated against him by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in an alleged money laundering case was “malafide”.

Senior counsel Vikram Chaudhri, who appeared for the NCP leader, told a bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and S V Kotwal that the manner in which the central agency issued him summons and invoked the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) violated Deshmukh’s fundamental rights.

The lawyer urged the bench to quash the ED proceedings and sought interim directions to the ED and CBI to not take any coercive action against Deshmukh.

Further, Deshmukh should be allowed to submit documents and his statement electronically, and the ED should be restrained from compelling him to be present before it in person, the lawyer said. The NCP leader was a senior citizen and had already come in contact with several ED officials without any social distancing over the last few months. He did not want to be present before the agency’s officials physically for questioning in view of the COVID-19 pandemic, advocate Chaudhri said.

As per Deshmukh’s petition, the ED registered a case against him on May 11, 2021, and issued the first summons on June 25.

“I was not called for any inquiry by ED between May 11 and June 25. On June 25 my statement was recorded and a summons was issued to me (Deshmukh),” the lawyer said.

“PMLA has been invoked in the present case in a way that is malafide (done in bad faith), and it breaches my fundamental rights,” he added.

Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi, who appeared for the ED, said Deshmukh’s lawyer must confine arguments before this court to the interim relief as the former minister has filed a separate writ petition in the Supreme Court on the issue of the scope of the PMLA.

Deshmukh was yet to respond to any of the summonses issued to him by the ED since June, he pointed out.

The ED started its probe against Deshmukh after the CBI filed an FIR against the NCP leader on April 21 following allegations of corruption made against him by IPS officer Param Bir Singh. The HC will continue hearing advocate Chaudhri’s arguments on Friday.

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