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Allahabad High Court refuses to quash proceedings against UP Minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati going in PMLA court

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court rejected the petition filed by former Uttar Pradesh Minister Gayatri Prasad Prajapati  seeking quashing of proceedings in PMLA Court.

A Single Bench of Justice Subhash Vidyarthi passed this order while hearing an application under Section 482 filed by Gayatri Prasad Prajapati.

By means of the application filed under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, the applicant has challenged validity of the order dated 22.12.2022 passed by the Sessions Judge / Special Judge, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Lucknow in Sessions Case, rejecting the application for discharge filed by the applicant.

The applicant has also assailed another order passed in the aforesaid case on the same date framing charge of commission of offence under Section 3 of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 against the applicant.

The facts of the case are that on 26.11.2020, an Inspector in the UP Vigilance Establishment filed a First Information Report (F.IR) under Sections 13 (2) and 13 (1) (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Police Station Lucknow Sector, Vigilance Establishment, against the applicant stating that by means of a Government order dated 08.06.2018, UP Vigilance Establishment was directed to conduct an open enquiry against the applicant, who was the then Minister for Mining in UP Government.

It was found in enquiry that while working as a public servant, the applicant had earned 49,93,149/- from his known and valid sources of income, but he spent 3,48,21,760/- on acquisition of properties and maintenance during the same period. Thus the applicant spent €2,98,28,511 in excess of his known income, which is disproportionate to his income from the known and valid sources. The applicant could not give any satisfactory reply regarding disproportionate expenditure and acquisition of properties. Besides this, there was prima facie evidence that the applicant had acquired benami properties also. The F.I.R states that the aforesaid acts of the applicant amount to commission of offence under Section 13 (1) (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

On 14.01.2022, the Directorate of Enforcement registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) in furtherance of the aforesaid F.IR.

It is recorded in the ECIR that from the averments made in the F.I.R, it appears that it is expedient to make inquiries against the applicant relating to illegal earnings, which are “proceeds of crime”, i.e, tainted money, earned out of criminal activities and on the basis of the aforesaid information, a prima facie case of commission an offence of money-laundering under Section 3 of the PMLA appears to have been made out.

The E.D carried out investigation and on 08.04.2021, it filed a Complaint in the Special Court for Prevention of Money Laundering cases at Lucknow stating that the applicant has committed the offence of money-laundering and he is liable to be prosecuted and punished under Section 4 of the PMLA.

It is inter-alia stated in the complaint that the relevant documents/evidences were collected from various authorities, including Banks, Registrar of Companies, District Registration Authorities etc and those were examined. There is another case in respect of illegal mining in District Fatehpur, Uttar Pradesh, which was lodged on the basis of C.B.I F.I.R, in which the applicant is one of the named accused persons. The documents collected during the course of investigation in the aforesaid ECIR and the statements recorded under Section 50 of PMLA and Section 17 of PMLA during searches conducted on 30.01.2020 have also been taken into consideration during investigation.

The complaint contains a list of 57 bank accounts, of which 7 are in the name of the applicant’s wife, 6 are in the name of his son Anil Kumar Prajapati, 6 are in the name of his other son Anurag Prajapati, 5 are in the name of the applicant’s daughter Ankita Prajapati, 5 are in the name of his other daughter Sudha Prajapati, 14 are in the name of the applicant and rest of the accounts are in the name of some other persons and companies and a total of 3,50,17,045.48 is deposited in those bank accounts. 
The complaint also contains a list of 60 immovable properties worth 33,44,52,827/-, out of which 4 properties are in the name of the applicant’s son Anurag Prajapati, 9 properties are in the name of his other son Anil Kumar Prajapati, 2 properties stand in the name of the applicant’s wife, 2 are in the name of his daughter Sudha Prajapati, I property stands in the name of his other daughter Ankita and I property stands in the name of the applicant’s daughter-in-law Shilpa and rest of the properties are in the names of some other persons and some companies, in which the applicant’s sons are directors.

The Court noted that,

The applicant filed an application for discharge under Section 227 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 inter alia on the grounds that no charge-sheet has been filed in furtherance of the F.I.R lodged by the vigilance establishment; that the allegations leveled in the complaint are false and there is no allegation and material which could associate the applicant with the offence alleged and establish his guilt even prima facie.

A supplementary affidavit was filed in support of the application for discharge wherein it was stated that as no police report has been filed in furtherance of the FIR, trial of the case under PMLA should be postponed.

The trial court has framed a charge against the applicant that while being a Minister during the period Fabruary 2013 to March 2017, the applicant generated unaccounted money to the tune of approximately 35 Crores, which ₹49,93,149/- from his known and valid sources was invested in bank accounts in the name of his family members and companies controlled by his sons and in several shell companies and was also used for purchasing properties in the name of his family members and benami holders, and the applicant has directly been involved in possession, acquisition and use of proceeds of crime and projecting the same as untainted, thereby committing offence under Section 3 of PMLA, Punishable under Section 4 of the Act.

The Court further noted that,

When the record of the case is examined in light of the aforesaid legal position, what appears at this stage is that the vigilance establishment has filed FIR under Sections 13 (2) and 13 (1) (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1988, Police Station Lucknow Sector, Vigilance Establishment against the applicant stating that in furtherance of a Government Order dated 08.06.2018, UP Vigilance Establishment had conducted an enquiry against the applicant, who was the then Minister for Mining in UP Government.

After conducting the open enquiry, the enquiry report was submitted to the Government in which it was found that while working as a public servant, the applicant spent 2,98,28,511-/ in excess of his known income, which is disproportionate to his income from the known and valid sources. The applicant could not give any satisfactory reply regarding the disproportionate expenditure and acquisition of properties. Besides this, there was prima facie evidence that the applicant had acquired benami properties also. The FIR states that the aforesaid acts of the applicant amount to commission of offence under Section 13 (1) (b) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The E.D has conducted investigation, during which it has recorded statements of several persons, including the applicant, and has filed a complaint, which states that the applicant became a member of the legislative assembly in the year 2012 and in the year 2013, he was appointed as Minister of State for Irrigation and later he was appointed as the Minister of State for Mining. The applicant remained a Minister till 2017 and on 15.03.2017, he was arrested in connection with a different F.I.R registered by UP Police.

During the period the applicant was a Minister, he misused his official position and unlawfully gained several Crores of rupees in cash, which was deposited in the bank accounts of his family members, his employees and companies, in which his sons were directors.

Investigation revealed that the applicant rose exponentially in wealth ever since he became a minister. The total income of the applicant during the period he was a Minister, was 72.38 lakhs whereas the assets standing in the name of the applicant, his family members and benami holders and of some companies in which the applicant’s sons are directors, is 35 crores approximately. The applicant has committed the offence of money laundering by amassing unexplained and unaccounted properties in the name of his family members and related companies.

“The aforesaid allegations clearly make out a case for trial of the applicant for commission of offence under Section 3 of the PMLA as upon consideration of the record of the case and the documents submitted therewith, it does not appear that there is not sufficient ground for proceeding against the applicant. There appears to be no illegality in the order passed by the Trial Court rejecting the application for discharge filed by the applicant and in the order framing charges against him.

The plea regarding closure or withdrawal of some earlier complaints filed before the Lokayukta and the F.I.R having been lodged in furtherance of an order passed by the Lokayukta on a subsequent complaint allegedly filed on the basis of similar set of facts would also not affect the legality of the orders passed by the trial Court for more than one reason.

Firstly, there is no averment that the earlier complaints had been closed after a full-fledged enquiry and summary closure of complaint or withdrawal thereof without any finding of innocence would be of no consequence. Secondly, the principle of res judicata does not apply to the proceedings before the Lokayukta. Thirdly, it would also not amount to double jeopardy, which principle is contained in Section 300 of CrPC.

For attracting the principle of double jeopardy, the person must have been tried by a Court of competent jurisdiction’ for an offence and convicted or acquitted of such offence, whereas the Lokayukta is not a ‘Court’ within the meaning of the expression used in Section 300 of CrPC.

The E.D has filed the complaint after conducting investigation, when the evidence collected prima facie established commission of offence under PMLA and there appears to be no illegality in the order passed by the trial Court rejecting the application for discharge of the applicant and the order framing charges against the applicant”, the Court observed while rejecting the application. 

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