After two years, Chhagan Bhujbal gets bail in money laundering case

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Mumbai: The Bombay High Court on Friday granted bail to former Maharashtra Deputy CM Chhagan Bhujbal in connection with a money laundering case, news agency ANI reported. The judge has, however, imposed certain conditions on Bhujbal wherein he has been asked not to step out of Mumbai without prior permission and also to appear before the Enforcement Directorate (ED), whenever required.

The decks for Bhujbal's bail were cleared in November previous year when the Supreme Court of India struck down the "stringent" provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which contained some "unconstitutional" bail conditions. Apart from being the deputy chief minister, he was also handling the Public Works Department in the Congress-NCP government, and is alleged to have misused his office in awarding contracts for PWD projects, causing a loss of over Rs 800 crore to the exchequer. Until then, Bhujbal's family can complete the formalities of enlarging him by furnishing a cash bond of similar amount.

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Sameer was also arrested in the case and is in jail. At High Court, he challenged the constitutional validity of Section 45 (offenses cognizable and non-bailable) of PMLA under which he was arrested.

His lawyers Vikram Chaudhri had pointed out to the court during arguments that it had been over two years that Bhujbal was behind bars, and due to this incarceration his health was failing. Even his nephew, Sameer Bhujbal, was arrested in this case and his bail plea is pending before the high court. The HC order comes in the wake of Supreme Court quashing a provision of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for being discriminatingly tough on accused at the bail stage. It says, "When a person is accused of having committed the offence. burden of proving that proceeds of crime are untainted property shall be on the accused". His lawyer said that section 24 is to be dealt with at the time of trial and not during a bail hearing. "We are sure that Bhujbal saheb will continue to guide us in the fight against anti-people regime", Ms. Sule said.

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