The Bombay High Court today granted interim protection from arrest till May 25 to Asif Balwa and six other businessmen who are facing charges of alleged money laundering along with former Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal in some cases, including the Rs 100-crore Maharashtra Sadan scam.
All the seven had challenged the non-bailable warrants issued against them by a special court and later also sought pre-arrest bail from the high court.
After hearing their counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, I P Bagadia and Sirish Gupte, Justice Ajay Gadkari restrained the police from arresting the seven applicants till May 25.
The seven accused, apprehending arrest on money laundering charges, are Sanjiv Jain, Praveen Jain, Chandrakant Sarda, Jagdish Purohit, Rajesh Mistry, Vipul Karkaria and Asif Balwa.
According to Enforcement Directorate, the seven businessmen allegedly conspired with Bhujbal to divert the kickbacks received by him through their group of companies.
They argued that the alleged offences with which they have been charged with are non-cognisable offences and warrants could not have been issued against them at the first instance because they were not arrested during interrogation.
The lawyers also cited a Gujarat High Court judgement in a similar case in which the accused had been granted pre-arrest bail despite a ban on section 45 of Prevention of Money Laundering Act. Besides, the Supreme Court has stayed warrants against accused in a similar case, they argued.
Besides Bhujbal, his nephew Sameer Bhujbal has also been arrested on money laundering charges.
ED had told the special court earlier that it attached properties of Bhujbals worth Rs 131.86 crore, while remaining properties worth Rs 708.30 crore were yet to be identified and attached.
Also, ED had twice conducted searches at nine premises, including properties and offices, belonging to Chhagan Bhujbal, his son Pankaj, nephew Sameer and few others.
ED had on March 30 this year filed a 11,500-page charge sheet naming Chhagan Bhujbal, Pankaj, Sameer, corporates like D B Realty, Balwa group of companies, Neelkamal Realtors and Builders Private Limited, Neelkamal Central Apartment LLP and Kakade Infrastructure.
The agency filed 2 FIRs against Bhujbals and others under anti-money laundering laws, based on FIRs filed by Anti-Corruption Bureau, to probe alleged irregularities in the construction of the state guest house 'Maharashtra Sadan' in Delhi and the Kalina land-grabbing case here.