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High court discharges tainted excise commissioners aide
May, 23rd 2013

More than nine years after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) arrested former Central Excise Commissioner Prahlad Kumar Ajwani on corruption charges, it suffered a setback a few days ago when the Bombay High Court discharged a builder accused of helping Ajwani.

The CBI in its charge sheet had said that Indore-based builder Rajendra Beesani, a family friend of the Ajwanis, had signed as witness in a will in which Ajwani's motherin-law Pushpa had transferred some of her properties to Ajwani and his family.

The CBI said Beesani knew the properties listed in Pushpa's name were actually purchased by Ajwani from corruption money, yet he signed as witness in the will.

The Bombay High Court's Justice S C Dharmadhikari, however, said that even prima facie, the CBI was not able to establish whether Beesani had helped Ajwani. "What has to be established is that the assets disproportionate to the known source of income were acquired by Ajwani, and while he acquired them, that act was aided by Beesani," Justice Dharmadhikari noted.

The CBI has accused Ajwani of accumulating properties worth over Rs 10.76 crore, which is more than 2,000 times his purchasing power through known sources of income.

In October 2004 Ajwani was booked for allegedly demanding a bribe of Rs 90 lakh from a Thane businessman. In subsequent searches at his properties, CBI seized Rs 6.15 crore in cash.

Beesani's lawyers argued that the CBI case against him was built on the premises that he was a family friend of the Ajwanis, and that he signed as a witness in a will made by Pushpa.

Ruling in Beesani's favour, the HC noted that the CBI failed to clarify as to how Beesani could be accused of helping Ajwani amass wealth disproportionate to his known sources simply by being a witness to a will.

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