The Bombay High Court on Wednesday sought the response of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the Habeas Corpus petition filed by Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Nawab Malik challenging the case of money laundering registered against him by the ED and seeking his immediate release from custody.
A Bench of Justices SB Shukre and GA Sanap heard Mailk’s counsel Senior Advocate Amit Desai for a brief while before it said that it will post the matter before a regular bench.
The Court then adjourned the matter till March 7, 2022. It, however, said that any subsequent remand order by the lower court will not impact the rights of both parties.
This would mean that Malik can argue on Habeas Corpus even if he is remanded by the lower court.
“We are adjourning petition by granting time till March 7, 2022 to ED to file reply. Any subsequent remand if granted, the same shall be without prejudice to rights and contentions of both parties,” the Court directed.
The High Court preferred to defer the case since it was not the regular bench slated to hear the case.
“We understand your difficulties.. but then we are not regular bench,” the Court remarked.
“I am aware of the exigencies, but with the Habeas Corpus there is a question of someone’s personal liberty,” Desai replied.
“But the regular bench is sitting tomorrow,” the Bench maintained.
“In a writ of habeas corpus, tomorrow is remand date. If the (lower court) judge continues remand, they will argue that the writ is not maintainable,” Desai contended.
The Court, however, chose to defer the hearing while issuing notice to ED.
ED had arrested Malik on allegations that he had allegedly purchased a property at a rate lower than the market value from Dawood.
Malik was allegedly picked up from his residence at 7 am on February 23 for interrogation after he was made to sign the summons issued to him by ED.
After interrogation for over 8 hours, Malik was arrested and taken for medical examination.
From there, he was produced before Special Judge under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) who remanded him to 8-day custody.
Special Judge RN Rokade while remanding him to custody reasoned that sufficient time would be required to investigate proceeds of crime that traversed over the last 20 years.
The judge had also observed that the allegations against Malik were prima facie well-founded.
Malik had then moved Bombay High Court by way of the present Habeas Corpus petition.
During the hearing on Wednesday, Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh appearing for ED sought time to file a response.
Desai, however, said that the matter can be decided without any reply since the accused has been arrested for two transactions for which he is not involved.
“Reply is not required. The fundamental issue we have raised here is that a gentleman has been arrested with two sets of transactions for which he is not concerned,” Desai submitted.
He contended that while ED has recorded statements of certain persons who are connected to Dawood Ibrahim and many of them have not mentioned Malik’s name.
Desai also pointed out how various FIRs were registered in connection with the transactions but Malik’s name was not there in any of them.
“A first information report (FIR) was registered by NIA against Kaskar that he is a global terrorist. There are set of names and Malik is not in them. Another FIR was registered by Iqbal Mirchi. In that also there is no Malik,” he said.
Desai contended that Malik has been implicated only to create a false impression that there is some connection between the him and those involved in the offences.
In his plea filed through Rashmikant & Partners, Malik assailed the Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR), the arrest and the remand terming it illegal.
He stated that such illegal acts rendered his continued detention illegal and without jurisdiction entitling him to a writ of habeas corpus and immediate release.
He has also sought setting aside of the order of the special PMLA judge dated February 23 by which he was remanded to ED custody for 8 days.
Malik’s plea stated that his political rivals had been “deeply embarrassed by the exposes” carried out by him.
He added that his arrest was a “brazen and completely illegal action” by the ED to muzzle him.
Desai appeared alongside Advocates Tareq Sayed, Kushal Mor briefed by Advocate Rohan Dakshini from Rashmikant & Partners.
Singh appeared with Advocates Aditya Thakker and Pranav Thackur for ED.