The statement was made after Justices D S Thakur and Valmiki Menezes had earlier in the day reserved their order on a PIL that sought a CBI and ED probe into Thackerays’ assets. “Preliminary enquiry is already initiated by EOW,” public prosecutor Aruna Pai informed the HC.
Gouri Bhide (38), a behavioural and soft skills consultant, had filed the PIL questioning how the Thackeray family had accumulated enormous wealth without an official source of income.
Bhide briefly argued that after her July 11 complaint to the police commissioner was forwarded to EOW, no action had been taken. Appearing for Uddhav and son Aaditya, senior advocate Aspi Chinoy countered that Bhide’s “whole petition is bereft of material fact and purely based on personal conjecture”. They said assuming the police had refused to act on her complaint, she could go through the normal procedure of filing a private complaint before a magistrate to direct the police. She only stated that the Thackeray-run ‘Marmik’ magazine and ‘Saamna’ newspaper had a Rs 45 crore turnover and Rs 11.5 crore profit during the pandemic year of 2020-2021 and other papers did not. “From that, what inference can be drawn of corruption or divergence of assets?” Chinoy asked, adding that there was nothing in Bhide’s petition to invoke the high court’s extraordinary jurisdiction to direct an investigation by central agencies.
Chinoy said the petition was against the Thackerays, “none of whom are in power” and “are not capable of influencing the investigation.” “The gentleman (Uddhav) I represent has not been in power for the past six months… This is not a case where we (Thackerays) can influence investigation to stop and stymie it,” he added. Chinoy said Bhide’s petition had no material facts to make out a case. She only stated that the Thackeray-run ‘Marmik’ magazine and ‘Saamna’ newspaper had a Rs 45 crore turnover and Rs 11.5 crore profit during the pandemic year 2020-2021 and other papers did not.
Senior advocate Ashok Mundargi, for Rashmi and Tejas, added, “If there is no cognisable offence and no foundation is laid on the basis of facts, all prayers made on suspicion have no value.” The judges then closed the matter for order.
After court recess, Pai informed that EOW has started a PE in the matter and urged the HC to record her statement. Chinoy opposed it, saying it “is an attempt to abuse the process”. Bhide said she was not intimated by the EOW about the PE. “Let central agencies investigate the matter,” she urged the court.