Ranchi Special Court has held that, even in the case of an exoneration by the police in a predicate offence that serves as the basis for the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to initiate a money laundering investigation, it is up to the court whether to drop the charges under the PMLA.
Special Judge Prabhat Kumar Sharma made this observation on November 26, when he denied bail to Pankaj Mishra, the representative of Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren. On Tuesday, the order was published on the official website.
The Jharkhand Police had exonerated Mishra from a number of criminal cases, including a threat case associated with the Barharwa toll plaza bidding process, which served as the basis for the investigation by the Enforcement Directorate.
On June 22, 2020, a Barharwa FIR was filed based on a complaint filed by Sambhu Nandan Kumar, who alleged that Mishra threatened him for participating in the Bid for Barharwa Toll. According to Kumar, Mishra instructed him “not to participate” in the bidding process over the phone, but when he refused, a mob attacked him in response to “Mishra’s instructions”.
Mishra and Minister Alamgir Alam were dropped from the charge sheet filed by Jharkhand Police in May of this year, citing their innocence.
According to the defense lawyer’s submission in the bail application: “… if the predicate offense is not prosecuted, the PMLA cannot be applied.”
However, the special public prosecutor of the ED made the assertion that Mishra can easily “manage cases” because of his political clout. It was alleged that a person with such dominance and influence could easily manage any criminal case … and exonerate the defendant with the assistance of his political patrons.
As part of his judicial custody, Mishra is under police security at Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS), Ranchi.
As a result of the investigation, it has been revealed that during the period of his continuing stay at RIMS since July 27 of this year, approximately 300 telephone calls have been made/received to various persons, including some highly placed and influential individuals. In court, the ED submitted that the state of Jharkhand has been dispensing resources to the petitioner.
In light of the fact that the accused had been found not guilty of the predicate offense following hearing both sides, the Special Judge did not find it appropriate to grant bail to the accused following his exoneration.” The investigating officer has submitted a final report in the predicate case. Still, nothing on the case record indicates that the petitioner has been discharged or acquitted of the scheduled offence or that a court of competent jurisdiction has quashed the criminal case against him… Even though the police have issued their final report, the court is always free to summon him to face trial based on the evidence/materials at the appropriate stage,” the court ruled.
“…just because, Since he was not prosecuted for the predicate offence, his prosecution for money laundering cannot be considered illegal since the prosecution complaint demonstrates his active involvement in the crime,” stated the court.