The Bombay High court on Tuesday dismissed a public interest litigation seeking a disproportionate assets case against former Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and his family, observing that it sought a “roving enquiry”.
The High Court also imposed a cost of Rs 25,000 on the petitioners holding that the PIL was bereft of any evidence and that it was nothing but an abuse of the process of law.
The PIL, filed by city resident Gauri Bhide who claims to be a behaviour and soft skill consultant and Abhay Bhide, sought the court’s direction to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) to conduct a “thorough and impartial” investigation against the ex-CM and his family.
Rejecting the petition, a division bench of justices Dheeraj Thakur and Valmiki Menezes said it provided no evidence that would give a basis to the court to conclude that prima facie a case was made out for an investigation by the CBI or any other central agency.
“On a reading of the complaint and the petition, it appears that the petitioners are only speculating on the sudden rise in the prosperity index of the private respondents (Thackerays) from their humble beginning. Therefore, entertain a suspicion that the lifestyle maintained by the said private respondents could only be attributed to the corrupt practices in the BMC,” the bench said.
It noted that in any case “there is absolutely no evidence or live link between the alleged malpractices” in the BMC and the Thackerays.
“The petitioners thus are attempting to seek a roving probe, monitored by this court into the suspicions so entertained by the petitioners based on nothing but bald allegations,” the court said.
Calling the PIL “nothing but an abuse of the process of law”, the HC dismissed it with a cost of Rs 25,000. It directed the petitioners to deposit the amount in the Advocates Welfare Fund within a period of two months.
Calling herself a “sincere and vigilant” citizen, one of the petitioners said she wanted to help the Government of India “unearthing some more hidden, unaccounted wealth disproportionate to income and also unearth laundered money”.
The plea stated she was inspired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “fight against corruption” and claimed she had evidence to show that the Thackeray family “has accumulated properties and assets illegally”.
The petition alleged that Uddhav Thackeray and his family never disclosed any particular service, profession or business as their official source of income. “Yet, we find they have huge properties in a metro city like Mumbai and in Raigad district, which may run into crores,” said the PIL.
Citing raids CBI and ED raids on people “who are very very close to the Thackeray family”, the PIL claimed that the Thackerays have links with “huge undisclosed properties, cash and other wealth”.
When print media incurred heavy losses during the COVID-induced lockdown, Thackerays’ “Prabodhan Prakashan Pvt. Ltd. showed brilliant performance of Rs 42 crore turnover and Rs 11.5 crore profit”, said the petition, who also claimed that her family owned a printing press in Dadar in central Mumbai.
At the time, Uddhav Thackeray was the Chief Minister and his son Aaditya Thackeray was a cabinet minister, the plea said.
Appearing for the Thackerays, senior counsels Aspi Chinoy and Ashok Mundargi argued that the PIL had been filed on assumptions and without any factual foundation.
“The petition is absolutely bereft of any material and is filed purely on assumptions. The petitioner has an alternate remedy of filing a private complaint before a magistrate’s court seeking police probe,” Chinoy had argued.
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