Gujarat HC grants bail to Pradeep Sharma in money laundering case

Gujarat HC grants bail to Pradeep Sharma in money laundering case

The Gujarat High Court on Thursday gave relief to suspended IAS officer Pradeep Sharma on his bail application in a money laundering case, being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).

Ordering release of Sharma on bail, the court of Justice A J Desai also rejected the Centre's request for a stay on the order to enable it to approach the Supreme Court.

Sharma, a Gujarat cadre IAS officer, had been arrested on July 31, 2016, under the provisions of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) after the Supreme Court vacated an interim stay on his arrest.

Earlier, on January 4 this year, a special PMLA court denied bail to Sharma and he later approached the Gujarat High Court. The High Court had on January 24 stayed the special court from proceeding further against Sharma in the case, with the judge observing that prima facie the case appeared to be in favour of Sharma.

Sharma got bail as the Supreme Court had read down Section 45 of the PMLA that restrained courts from granting bail, considering burden of proof to convince the court of innocence lay on the shoulders of the accused.

The ED had registered a case against Sharma on the basis of cases lodged by CID (Crime) and Anti-Corruption Bureau of the state government in 2010. The cases relate to an alleged sanction of government land at cheaper rate to Welspun India Limited and its group companies Welspun Power and Steel and Welspun Gujarat Style Rohran in Kutch district as part of suspected quid pro quo.

The probe agency stated that Sharma had sanctioned the land to the company in 2004 when he was the collector and chairman of district land evaluation and pricing committee of Kutch. This, it claimed, caused a loss of Rs 1.2 crore to state exchequer. ED alleged that he received Rs 22 lakh in the name of his wife Shyamal P Sharma in lieu of the land sale.

He is then alleged to have transferred the monies to his wife's account using hawala channels with the help of five people named in ED's charge sheet.

Charges Modi govt

Sharma, for his part, had in a petition before the Supreme Court earlier stated that he was being victimised by the then Narendra Modi government in Gujarat and had sought a CBI probe in his case. The plea was rejected by the apex court.

Sharma had also contended that the provisions of PMLA were invoked with retrospective effect as the said action had taken place much before PMLA provisions came into force.

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