Not A Case Warranting Exercise Of Extraordinary Jurisdiction: Bombay HC While Dismissing PIL For Probe Against Thackeray Family
The Bombay High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) that sought an investigation against the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray and his family holding that it is not a case warranting the exercise of extraordinary jurisdiction.
The Court was dealing with a matter wherein the petitioners prayed to issue a writ of mandamus to the CBI and Enforcement Directorate for probing into alleged disproportionate assets of the Thackeray family.
A Division Bench comprising Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Valmiki SA Menezes held, “In any case there is absolutely no evidence or live link between the alleged malpractices in the B.M.C. and private Respondents herein. 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. This is thus certainly not a case warranting the exercise of extraordinary jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution of India.”
The Bench noted that as per the public prosecutor, a preliminary inquiry had been initiated by the Economic Office Wing (EOW) on the complaint by the petitioners but they did not express a desire to withdraw the petition.
The petitioners Gouri Abhay Bhide and Abhay Bhide appeared in person while Public Prosecutor A.S. Pai, and Senior Advocates Aspi Chinoy and Ashok Mundargi appeared for the respondents.
It was alleged in the plea that the complaint filed with the Mumbai Police although forwarded on the same date to the EOW, did not result in any investigation into the allegations levelled against the respondents. As per the petitioners, the respondents committed serious economic offences and offences of corruption, despite which the Police Commissioner avoided taking legal action on account of heavy political pressure.
It was further alleged that the respondents had assets, which were otherwise disproportionate to their known sources of income, and the same are stated to be benami transactions. It was also alleged that the respondents ran periodicals by the name ‘Marmik’ and ‘Saamna’ which were not subjected to the audit bureau of circulation and that during the Corona period, while the entire print media in India was facing heavy losses, the company, ‘Prabodhan Prakashan Private Limited’ practically owned by Thackeray family, had shown a turnover of Rs. 42 crores and a book profit of Rs. 11.5 crores.
The High Court after hearing the petitioners and counsel asserted, “Testing the facts of the present case on the touch stone of the ratio of the aforementioned judgments, even in the present case it can be seen that the allegations are totally vague and general in character.”
The Court said that the petitioners were only speculating on the sudden rise in the prosperity index of the respondents from their humble beginning and, therefore, entertain a suspicion that the lifestyle maintained by the respondents could only be attributed to the corrupt practices in the B.M.C.
“Exhibit- B to the petition levels general allegations questioning the source of income of the private Respondent Nos. 5 to 8. While Exhibit – C tries to explain the modus operandi for fund raising from the B.M.C., however, no specifc role has been attributed to any of the private Respondents in the petition but what is sought to be explained is the manner in which the corrupt practices get executed in the B.M.C.”, observed the Court.
The Court further observed that the petition as also the complaint was bereft of any evidence which would give a basis to the Court to conclude that a prima facie case was made out for an investigation by the CBI or any other central agency.
The Court, therefore, held that the PIL was nothing but an abuse of the process of law and imposed a cost of Rs. 25,000/- on the petitioners to be deposited in the Advocates Welfare Fund within a period of two months.
Accordingly, the Court dismissed the PIL.
Cause Title- Gouri Abhay Bhide & Anr. v. Union of India & Ors.