Nationalist Congress Party’s (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar, has called off his ‘voluntary’ visit to the Enforcement Directory in South Mumbai’s Ballard Estate after police requested him to cancel visit in view of maintaining law and order in Maharashtra.
Pawar addressed the media outside his residence, stating that Mumbai Police commissioner and Joint Joint Commissioner of Police (CP) visited him at his residence, asking him to comply with ED’s email and not visit the office on Friday as prohibitory orders are in place.
“As a former chief minister, in view of maintaining law and order, I have decided to not visit ED’s office today.” he said.
He slammed the BJP-led Centre alleging, “This is a deliberate attempt to malign Opposition’s image in the state.” He questioned the timing of the FIR and claimed he has never been involved in the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank scam.
Pawar also expressed concern over this home constituency, Baramati, which has recently been hit by floods and said that his first priority is to visit the constituency than to visit the ED.
“I am worried about the people in my constituency and will be leaving soon to Baramati to gauge the damage done by the floods,” he said.
He also thanked the people of Maharashtra and all the political parties to had come out to support him. Pawar further added that he would be touring the state ahead of the Assembly elections on 21 October.
The ED had written to Pawar earlier today, asking him to not visit its office for an inquiring on Friday, adding that when he is required, the probe agency would intimate him. Pawar, named in a money-laundering case by the ED in connection with a scam at Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank had earlier said he would visit the ED office at 2 pm.
However, the premium agency has not summoned Pawar or anyone else named in the case as of yet. NCP leader Nawab Malik told reporters on Friday that the NCP chief was still adamant about going to the office at the scheduled time of 2 pm, even after receiving the email.
“He (Sharad Pawar) was conveyed that he will be informed of future development and if required will be summoned by ED,” added Malik. Prohibitory orders under section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) have been issued outside the office at Ballard Estate in South Mumbai and in surrounding areas.
The registration of the case against Pawar had drawn angry reactions from the NCP whose workers staged protests in Mumbai, Aurangabad, Solapur, Beed, Thane, Nashik and his home turf Baramati in Pune district, among other parts of the state.
Anticipating similar protests on Friday, orders prohibiting movement of groups of people under section 144 have been imposed outside the ED office, a police official said on Thursday night.
“State NCP’s office is in the same area and there is a possibility that a large number of NCP supporters would gather during Pawar’s visit,” he said.
On Thursday, a late-night communication from the police said that prohibitory orders have also been imposed under the jurisdictions of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Marine Drive, Dongri, Azad Maidan, JJ Marg and MRA Marg police stations.
Pawar asked party men not to gather near the central agency’s office and ensure people are not inconvenienced.
With the ED expected to not allow Pawar entry into its office on Friday, NCP chief spokesperson Nawab Malik said the party patriarch will still persist with his decision to visit the agency’s premises in South Mumbai.
I appeal to all my NCP cadre and supporters not to gather near the ED office premises. Keeping our tradition to honour the constitution and respect for institutions, I request your co-operation to the police and other government agencies.
— Sharad Pawar (@PawarSpeaks) September 26, 2019
ED officials, meanwhile have said that the decision to question any person or accused in a case is the prerogative of the “investigating officer” and such a decision is taken when there are reasons to do so.
Pawar has not been summoned yet, they said, adding the Maratha strongman will be called for questioning and recording of a statement “whenever it is required”. Asked about it, Malik said, “Pawar Saheb will go ahead with the decision to visit the office. We are not afraid. Instead of them (the ED) calling us, we will visit it.”
The NCP patriarch has already said he would “voluntarily” visit the ED office and co-operate with the probe agency given his faith in the Constitution. The former Union minister, however, has also asserted he would not bow before the ‘throne’ of Delhi, apparently referring to the BJP-led government at the Centre.
The veteran leader has been maintaining he was not associated with the bank in any capacity and questioned the timing of the registration of the case which comes just weeks ahead of the 21 October Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
The ED has filed a money laundering case against Pawar, his nephew Ajit Pawar, a former deputy chief minister, and others in connection with the scam. An Enforcement Case Information Report, equivalent to a police FIR, has been registered by the central agency under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act. The case is based on a Mumbai Police FIR which had named former chairmen of the bank, Ajit Pawar, an ex-deputy chief minister of the state, and 70 erstwhile functionaries of the cooperative lender.
The NCP has termed the ED case as politically motivated.
Police had imposed restrictions on assembly of people in the area where the ED office is located last month when MNS chief Raj Thackeray had appeared before agency officials in a separate money laundering case.
With inputs from PTI