The Rajasthan High Court has stayed the arrest warrant issued against Arun Shourie by a CBI Court Judge on September 15 in relation to cases registered over the disinvestment of the Laxmi Vilas Hotel, Udaipur.The Laxmi Vilas Palace, which was allegedly sold by the Vajpayee government to Bharat Hotels Ltd. at a price of Rs. 7.5 crores in 2002, has been taken over by the Udaipur...
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The Rajasthan High Court has stayed the arrest warrant issued against Arun Shourie by a CBI Court Judge on September 15 in relation to cases registered over the disinvestment of the Laxmi Vilas Hotel, Udaipur.
The Laxmi Vilas Palace, which was allegedly sold by the Vajpayee government to Bharat Hotels Ltd. at a price of Rs. 7.5 crores in 2002, has been taken over by the Udaipur district administration. The authorities after taking possession of the luxury hotel from Bharat Hotels Ltd. have put up a state government board outside. Last week, the Jodhpur CBI court directed the district administration to take over the hotel and file a report within three days.
The Vajpayee government's disinvestment ministry, led by Arun Shourie at that time, sold Laxmi Vilas Palace in 2002 to for only Rs 7.5 crore. The CBI investigation has found that the deal caused a loss of Rs 244 crore to the exchequer.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan and Advocate Pradeep Shah, appearing on behalf of Arun Shourie submitted that the Trial Court had committed an error in holding that the prosecution sanction was not required under Section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The Court pointed out that it has already considered this argument and has granted interim order/ protection to the petitioner therein. The Court added, "Considering the age and family circumstances of the petitioner, a small indulgence of appearing any time by October 15, 2020 is granted to him."
The petitioner himself appeared for the online hearing and highlighted his predicaments, while requesting the Court to grant complete exemption from appearance, the Court recorded in its order.
Shourie had highlighted his predicament citing his age, his wife's ailments and a child who required his care and therefore requested exemption from appearance before the Court.
The Court allowed Shourie the relief sought for, and directed him to furnish a personal bond of Rs 2 Lakhs and two sureties of Rs 1 Lakh each, on any date before October 15. The Court also asked him not to leave India without prior permission of the Court.
The Court had, in the case of Pradip Baijal Vs. Union of India (SB Criminal Misc. Petition No.2993/2020), granted interim protection to the petitioner therein. Shourie's counsel submitted that though Shourie's case was identical, it required a different order inasmuch as he was not even named in the FIR. Since the petitioner is a senior citizen and was thus suffering from various age related issues, it was prayed that he be granted complete exemption from appearance before the Trial Court.
Appearing for the CBI, the Additional Solicitor General, V Raju supported Shourie's prayer for exemption from appearance.
Justice Dinesh Mehta of the High Court of Judicature for Rajasthan at Jodhpur said, "Mr. Raju, appearing for the CBI submits that the petitioner's prayer of exemption be acceded to, while practically conceding that the order of the Special Judge, CBI is not in conformity with law. He emphasizes that the CBI is reiterating its stand that no irregularity had been committed and the very order of taking cognizance is not proper. The CBI has taken a stand that no irregularity had been committed. Therefore, it is their position that the very order of taking cognizance is not proper."
Earlier this week, the High Court had passed an allied order staying the arrest warrants issued against Jyotsana Suri – the wife of the erstwhile proprietor of Bharat Hotels the group that acquired Laxmi Vilas from the Government after the disinvestment process. In this order, the Court had also taken note that the CBI Court issued the arrest warrants after rejecting the final closure report filed by the CBI.
Arrest warrants were earlier issued by the CBI Court against Jyotsana Suri, Ashish Guha, Pradip Baijal and others, who have been charged with financial irregularities in the conduct of the hotel's disinvestment.