Maharashtra Congress leader Kripashankar Singh has been discharged by a special court in a disproportionate assets case that was going on since 2010. This comes as another major relief to Congress after former Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan was granted relief by the Bombay High Court in the Adarsh Scam.
Ashok Chavan was granted relief by Bombay High Court as the HC had quashed and set aside Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao’s sanction to the CBI in 2016 to prosecute Chavan.
Kripashankar Singh was discharged by Mumbai sessions court from the case that had started in 2010 when social activist Sanjay Singh had filed a PIL in the Bombay High Court and a complaint in the Anti-corruption Bureau about how Kripashankar Singh who was a vegetable seller had amassed huge assets and wealth.
While the HC was hearing the case of the PIL, it had directed the Mumbai City police commissioner in 2012 to file an FIR for criminal misconduct under PCA and attach the movable and immovable assets of Kripashankar and his family members. The case was subsequently handed over to the Economic Offence Wing of the crime branch.
Yesterday, special judge D K Gudadhe heard Singh’s application that as the speaker of the previous Congress-NCP led assembly had twice refused to grant sanction for his prosecution under the PCA, he should be discharged. Singh’s lawyer K H Giri had filed the application for discharge in November 2016.
It is notable here that after the FIR against Singh was filed in the Nirmal Nagar station in Mumbai, the case was given to Economic Offence Wing which had written to the speaker of the Maharashtra Assembly for the sanction to prosecute him. Dilip Walse Patil, the NCP leader, who was the speaker of the assembly at that time had twice refused the sanction. The first time on June 14, 2014, and for the second time on October 21, 2014.
The Maharashtra state legislative assembly elections were held on October 15, 2014, and the current Devendra Fadnavis government had sworn in on October 31, 2014. Days after the second time the sanction request was refused.
Kripashankar Singh’s lawyer has said that as the permission to prosecute Singh under section 19 of the PCA was denied by the speaker, it is not legally permissible for the EOW to prosecute him.
Singh has also maintained that though the speaker had denied the sanction, the orders were not shared with him. He has submitted that the speaker had sought relevant material from the EOW both the times but as serious discrepancies were found in the material, the speaker had refused the sanction. Singh’s defence has also mentioned that both the orders were in the custody of the prosecution and they have been deliberately and wantonly suppressed and withheld. Singh claimed that he had to obtain the orders of the speaker by filing Right To Information Applications.
The EOW had stuck to its argument that they did not need the sanction of the speaker to prosecute Singh because, at the time of filing the charge sheet, Singh was no longer a minister.
The EOW of the crime branch had filed the charge sheet against Singh in 2015. They had concluded that Singh and his family members possessed assets worth 19 crores which is disproportionate to their income sources by over 20%.
After Singh had been discharged, it is now being questioned that why the Devendra Fadnavis government, in its three years in power, did not seek to reverse the refusal of sanction and allowed the prosecution to go ahead. However, the pertinent question also is why the NCP leader, who was the speaker at the time refused to provide sanction to prosecute. It is not unreasonable to wonder, that given the Congress-NCP alliance, was the refusal to give sanction politically motivated so as to shield the Congress minister from facing the law. It is also noteworthy that the second sanction was denied on 21st October, two days after the Maharashtra Assembly election results were declared in favour of BJP and at the time of filing of the charge sheet, Kripashankar Singh was no longer a minister. Clearly, Congress and NCP have a lot to answer for.