Friday, September 29, 2023

Supreme Court to hear Trinamool leader Saket Gokhale bail plea on March 13

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The Supreme Court on Friday said that it would hear the bail petition filed by Trinamool Congress Spokesperson Saket Gokhale, challenging the Gujarat High Court order denying him bail in a case related to alleged misappropriation of funds collected through crowdfunding, after the Holi break.

The Bench of Justice B.R. Gavai and Justice Vikram Nath told Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing Gokhale, that the case got listed in the supplementary list very late on Tuesday night and they did not have time to go through it.

The Bench assured that they would hear the petition immediately after vacation and listed it for hearing on March 13.

An FIR was registered against Gokhale in December last year, based on a complaint filed by a woman who claimed to have donated Rs 500 to the AITC leader through online mode (Razorpay). 

It was alleged that Gokhale collected over Rs 72 lakh from more than 1,700 persons through a crowdfunding platform ‘our democracy’ and used the amount for personal use, thus leading to misappropriation of funds.

On January 6, the court of Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Manish Chauhan in Ahmedabad, Gujarat denied bail to Gokhale and sent him to judicial custody.

The ACMM noted that a case for cheating, criminal breach of trust and forgery had been registered against the AITC leader under the Indian Penal Code for misuse of money collected via crowdfunding.

Gokhale challenged the verdict in the High Court, which upheld the trial court order on the grounds that there was a prima facie case that the amounts collected in the name of welfare were used by the accused for his personal benefit.

The order was passed by the Single-Judge Bench of Justice Samir J. Dave.

Gokhale contended that he was arrested by the Gujarat police on December 6, 2022 after he tweeted that the Prime Minister’s visit to Morbi bridge accident site cost the exchequer an amount of Rs 30 crore. He alleged that it was a case of ‘political vendetta’.

The Ahmedabad Cyber Crime Branch on December 30, 2022 had arrested Gokhale from Delhi. This was Gokhale’s third arrest in recent times by the Gujarat police.

Earlier, he was arrested on December 6, 2022 for his tweet which stated that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Morbi after the bridge collapse, had cost Rs 30 crore to the exchequer.

On the basis of this tweet, an FIR was lodged, whereby he was booked under Sections 469 (forgery to harm reputation), 471 (using as genuine a forged document/electronic record), 501 (printing defamatory matter), and 505(b) (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code.

Gokhale got bail from an Ahmedabad court after his remand ended on December 8. However, the TMC leader was again arrested the same day by the Morbi police for the same offence registered there.  

On December 9 last year, the Court granted him bail and he was released before being arrested in the present case.

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