Pune: The Bombay High Court (HC) on Friday withdrew the interim protection from an arrest that it had earlier granted to builder DS Kulkarni and his wife Hemanti in an alleged cheating case. They have been booked by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Pune city police on charges of cheating over 2,500 investors to the tune of Rs 230 crore.
Justice Sadhana Jadhav said, “The Kulkarnis had taken the court for granted. They have not only cheated their investors, but also the court.”
Observing that they must not be permitted to enjoy protection from arrest at the “cost of the court’s faith”, Justice Jadhav vacated her order of November 11, 2017, in which she had granted interim anticipatory bail to the couple.
In November last year, Justice Jadhav had granted protection from arrest to them after they assured the court that they had every intention of repaying the investors.
At that time, they had also assured the court that they would deposit Rs 50 crore with the court registry within a fortnight.
However, no such deposit has been made so far. On the last hearing on February 14 this year, Kulkarni had told the court that he had arranged for Rs 12 crore and that the Buldana Urban Multistate Co-operative Credit Society had agreed to accept his liability up to Rs 100 crore by mortgaging his properties that were worth thousands of crores. The court had extended his relief up to February 22 this year.
However, on Thursday, the police moved the High Court seeking an urgent hearing. “We submitted that the properties that Kulkarni had promised to give to the credit society were already mortgaged to Bank of Maharashtra for Rs 10 crore loan and that another plot of land that Kulkarni had proposed to sell to pay off the investors was a government plot reserved for public amenities and that couldn’t be sold,” said DCP (crime) Pankaj Dahane.
On Friday, the officials of the credit society affirmed the submission by the police before the HC. “This is a shocking state of affairs. The tall claims made by the applicants (Kulkarnis) that their properties were worth thousands of crore have fallen flat. They had been granted interim relief only because the court wanted the investors, most of whom are senior citizens, to recover their money,” Justice Jadhav said.
“However, all this while, the applicants merely indulged in gimmickry and bought time at the cost of the court’s faith,” she said.
“They took the law and the court for granted and cheated not just the investors, but also the court. Therefore, interim relief is vacated and the prosecuting agency (police) is free to initiate arrest, or take any other suitable action against the applicants,” Justice Jadhav said.
The court also issued a notice to a Singapore-based firm - Prabhune International, asking why it must not be charged with perjury.
Prabhune International had made a false claim before the High Court of having transferred Rs 50 crore into DS Kulkarni’s account to help him deposit the money with the court registry.
While giving free hand to police, Justice Jadhav said, “It is made clear that the interim relief granted vide order dated 10.11.2017, granting interim protection in the favour of the applicants stands vacated. The investigating agency is at liberty to arrest the applicants forthwith.”
Kulkarnis were not arrested until late Friday night. “We have formed two teams to arrest the accused persons,” DCP Dahane added. (With PTI inputs)