Mumbai: The Bombay high court has granted an interim stay on a magistrate’s order of acquittal in a cheating case against the former president of the Satara-based Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Education Society Mahadev Deshmukh and five others who allegedly defrauded around 350 students of Rs 29 crore by promising MBBS admissions.
In November 2022, the magistrate acquitted the accused after one of the 95 victims reached a compromise with them before the Lok Adalat.
While staying the magistrate’s order last week, the HC said since all victims were not party to the compromise, which has been endorsed by the panel in the Lok Adalat, the final order passed pursuant thereto appears to be illegal.
Of 95 victims, only one gave compromise statement: HC Vaduj police in Satara had registered a cheating case against former president of Shri Chhatrapati Shivaji Education Society Mahadev Deshmukh and others in the MBBS admission fraud and based on the FIR, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed a money-laundering case. The ED arrested Deshmukh in 2022, he is still in jail.
Last November, while acquitting the accused from the cheating case, the magistrate had said, “The matter is pending for the appearance of the accused since 2017.
However, today, the informant appeared before me and submitted that he wants to withdraw the case against accused persons. This shows that the informant has no grievance anymore. Thus, no purpose would be served in keeping the matter pending on record.”
Based on the magistrate order, Deshmukh and others had filed for bail and discharge from the money-laundering case before the special PMLA court, which rejected it last November. The ED and police discussed the development after which the latter, through the government, filed a writ petition in the high court against the magistrate order.
Deshmukh was not served the notice and his lawyer appeared in the HC suo motu. Deshmukh’s lawyer argued that every award made by the Lok Adalat shall be final and binding on all parties to the dispute and no appeal shall lie to any court against the award. But the court rejected it, saying that it’s not an appeal, but a writ petition.
“There were 95 victims. Only the informant [one of the victims] appeared before the Lok Adalat and submitted a compromise statement,” said the HC. “Admittedly, on the given date, the respondents have been in jail and not present in Lok Adalat” it said.
The HC then stayed the acquittal order till January 25, when the matter will be heard next.