MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court Wednesday refused to grant interim relief to businessman Jitendra Navlani, a builder and an owner of a bar in south Mumbai. Navlani had challenged the proceedings related to a preliminary enquiry (PE) pending with a Special Investigation Team (SIT) pertaining to his alleged connection with extortion in connivance with some Enforcement Directorate (ED) officials.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut had earlier named Navlani and alleged that he and three other persons had “extorted Rs 300 crore from Mumbai’s 70 top builders on behalf of Enforcement Directorate officials” and the racket was being run in connivance with some BJP leaders. He had also alleged that ED officials were buying foreign properties and funding BJP candidates with extorted money.
Navlani apprehended that the PE would culminate in an FIR against him and pending hearing of his plea, he sought to stay the SIT proceedings calling them “arbitrary, illegal.”
On April 8, the Mumbai Police SIT initiated the PE into the allegations of extortion made against some ED officials and Navlani. The inquiry is based on the eight-page letter written by Arvind Bhosle, a Shiv Sena leader, to the Mumbai Police commissioner. Titled ‘Extortion/cheating/criminal conspiracy by Jittendra Navlani and others’, Bhosle in his letter mentioned seven companies which he alleged are held/closely controlled by Navlani, who “is one of the conduits of Enforcement Directorate, Western Region”.
Bhosale’s letter said that the ED would summon people under the pretext of an investigation under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on information from Navlani.
A division bench of Justices Prasanna B Varale and Shriram M Modak was informed by senior advocate Aabad Ponda representing Navlani that the High Court on April 12 had quashed an FIR registered against Navlani in 2019 for allegedly obstructing police inspector Anup Dange from performing his duty. Navlani had reportedly cited his connections with Param Bir Singh, the then director general of the ACB, to prevent Dange from taking action after his bar in south Mumbai was found to be operating beyond permissible hours.
Ponda submitted that “certain persons having different political ideologies, for reasons best known to them” are initiating proceedings against the petitioner, who has “nothing to do with any political ideology”. Ponda said the PE is sought to be initiated against the petitioner as per Supreme Court directions, which prescribes a limit for conducting PEs within 15 days in normal cases and in six weeks in exceptional cases.
“The PE began on March 8 has not been completed till date and the progress of the enquiry is unknown,” the petitioner said. Ponda added that Navlani’s transactions were legitimate on which he had paid taxes.
He added, “It is a complete misuse of legal provision and witch hunt by the investigating agency against Navlani who needs to be protected from coercive action.” However, the bench said that it was not inclined to grant interim relief without hearing the respondents and Navlani can exercise remedies provided in law in case an FIR is filed against him.
Navlani added that the PE is a result of a politically-connected matter between the ruling party and former Mumbai Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh, who exposed “shallow and illegal dealings of persons in power, as a result of which, there has been shaking up in the entire state”.
Sources – The Indian Express