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Bombay HC junks plea for central probe against Thackerays, fines petitioners

Mumbai : Terming it as “an abuse of the process of law”, the Bombay High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea seeking a probe by central agencies against former Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his family, for allegedly possessing assents disproportionate to their known sources of income.

A bench of Justices Dhiraj S. Thakur and Valmiki S.A. Menezes also imposed a fine of Rs 25,000 on petitioners Gouri Bhide and Abhay Bhide for demanding a CBI and ED investigation against Thackeray, his wife and sons.

The court said that the petition was bereft of any evidence that could give a basis to conclude that a prima facie case was made out for an investigation by the central agencies.

“On a reading of the complaint, it is clear that the petitioners are only speculating of the sudden rise and prosperity index of the private respondents (Thackerays) from their humble beginnings and therefore entertain a suspicion that the lifestyle of the private respondent could only be attributed to corrupt practices,” said the bench.

The Bhides’ PIL had sought directions to the CBI-ED to take cognisance of her complaint filed with Mumbai Police and take over the investigations, even as the state government had informed the court that the Economic Offences Wing had launched a preliminary probe into the (Bhides’) complaint.

Among other things, the petitioners said that Uddhav Thackeray, his wife Rashmi and their son Aditya had never disclosed “any particular service, profession and business” as their official sources of income, yet they had huge properties in Mumbai and Raigad that could run into crores of rupees.

Thackeray’s counsel, senior advocate Aspi Chinoy had challenged the maintainability of the PIL, its merits as it didn’t provide any specific details, based on which criminal proceedings could be initiated.

He argued that some publications of the Shiv Sena’s Saamana Group earned profits and others didn’t, but this could not be a reason to launch criminal proceedings.

Rashmi Thackeray’s lawyer, senior advocate Ashok Mundargi said that central agencies cannot be involved from the start based on “suspicions” and there has to be a prima facie cognisable offence which was not made out in the present case.

The petitioner Bhides are father and daughter living in Dadar, considered a Shiv Sena stronghold for decades.

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