Nagpur : Former Congress MLA Ashok Dhawad and one of the main accused in the Rs 38.75-crore Navodaya Co-operative Bank fraud case, was granted conditional bail by the Nagpur bench of Bombay High Court on Tuesday. He was taken into custody by the Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of the crime branch one year ago and has been behind bars since November 4, 2019.
While filing a bail application before the high court, Dhawad contended that charge sheet has been filed and there is no need of his custody. He also claimed that many accused persons including the manager of the bank and a director had been released on bail by the High Court in Navodaya bank scam.
Dhawad was the chairman of the now defunct Navodaya Urban Cooperative Bank where an alleged fraud took place between 2010 and 2015. Several investors were duped as the bank officials disbursed loans to defaulters who later, again defaulted on payments. The offence was registered at Dhantoli police station after an audit of the bank was conducted. The investigation was later handed over to EOW.
Senior Counsel Subodh Dharmadhikari and Deven Chauhan appearing for the applicant Dhawad cited Supreme Court rulings and contended that bail should be denied only if there is strong material and potential of trial being adversely influenced by granting bail. Besides, bail has been granted to six seven accused persons facing even more serious charges, they claimed while seeking relief for the ex-chairman. Relying on bail guidelines framed by the Supreme Court stating that bail should be denied only if there is strong material and potential of trial being adversely influenced by granting bail, Dhawad urged the High Court to release him.
However, prosecution strongly opposed grant of any relief to Dhawad citing his involvement in the scam. Following complaint of financial misappropriation lodged by special auditor against Navodaya Bank and its directors led by Dhawad, FIR was registered under Sections 420, 406, 409, 120-B, 465, 467, 468, 471 and 477-A of the Indian Penal Code as also Section 3 of the Maharashtra Protection of Interest of Depositors Act, 1999 and Sections 65 and 65(B) of the Information Technology Act, 2000. He was dubbed as responsible for causing loss of Rs 38.75 crore to the bank. Replying to query, the prosecution conceded that further custody of Dhawad was not required.
Justice Pushpa Ganediwala while granting conditional bail to Dhawad noted that there was no material to suggest that his release would adversely affect the on-going trial. Besides, looking at the bulky charge sheet and corona pandemic, the trial would take some time, the High Court noted while granting conditional bail to applicant like depositing passport, attending EoW office and trial court on each date of hearing.
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