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Koda aide wings clipped

- SC rejects Punamiya’s Singapore visit plea

New Delhi, Feb. 5: A key aide of Madhu Koda, being tried for financial crimes, was today declined permission to travel abroad for medical treatment after Enforcement Directorate told Supreme Court that it would hamper investigations into the multi-crore money laundering scam he helped the former Jharkhand chief minister pursue.

Manoj Kumar Babulal Punamiya, in judicial custody for two years, was denied permission to go to Singapore for stem cell treatment for cervical spondylitis after an apex court bench felt that medical facilities in India were adequate to treat the ailment.

“This is not one of the diseases where treatment cannot be done in India. Stem cell therapy is available in this country also,” the bench of justices H.L. Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi observed, while refusing to accede to Punamiya’s plea.

“There maybe people who have lot of wealth to get their treatment at expensive hospitals in foreign countries, but we do not want to entertain the petition. These people are involved in such crimes,” the bench added.

Senior counsel Mukul Rohtagi, appearing for Punamiya, said his client had got bail last year after being in judicial custody for over two years and was suffering from cervical spondylitis which required treatment through stem cell therapy available in Singapore.

Additional solicitor general P.P.Malhotra, appearing for the Enforcement Directorate, opposed Punamiya’s plea cautioning that once he left the country it would be difficult to bring him back.

“Once he leaves the country it would be very difficult to bring him back. We want him because we want to confront him with another person(Anil Bastawade) whom we had recently brought from Jakarta to establish our case,” Malhotra said.

The court then proceeded to dismiss the petition, but Rohtagi sought to withdraw it so that he could file a fresh plea once ED was done with questioning Punamiya and Bastawade.

Accordingly, the court allowed him to withdraw the petition.

Bastawade, another Koda aide facing money laundering charges in jail, was remanded to 10 days ED custody last week.

Earlier, a Ranchi court had sent Bastawade, arrested in Jakarta on January 21, to 14 days of judicial custody in the money-laundering case.

On January 29, Koda, who is facing a series of corruption charges under the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA) and the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), was denied bail by the apex court which refrained from entertaining his bail application following opposition from the Centre.

The bench of justice H.L. Dattu and Ranjan Gogoi refused to grant bail after another additional solicitor general Harin Rawal told the court that the ED would require at least 45 days to complete the trial.

Hence, the accused could not be let off before that because he could “influence the witnesses.”

The former chief minister had contended he had spent more than 40 months in jail since August 2009 and no purpose would be served by keeping him in prolonged incarceration. He maintained he was willing to cooperate with the authorities in future investigations.

Earlier, a separate bench of justice Aftab Alam and Ranajan Prakash Desai had granted bail to former state ministers Anosh Ekka and Hari Narayan Rai for four months in connection with cases pending against them under PCA and PMLA.

The bench had said the trial court would convert the provisional bail into a regular bail subject to their conduct during the four-month period.

The bench directed the duo to attend the trial in Ranchi regularly, but restrained them from staying in Ranchi.

In addition to Ekka and Rai, others lodged at the Birsa Munda Central Jail, Ranchi, include Koda, former water resources minister Kamlesh Singh, and former health minister Bhanu Pratap Shahi.

While the former chief minister was arrested from Chaibasa (West Singhbhum) on September 30, 2009, Kamlesh Singh was arrested by vigilance sleuths from Hussainabad in Palamau district on November 30,2009.

Shahi surrendered before the CBI court in Ranchi on August 6, 2011.

Koda has been charged for owning assets disproportionate to his known sources of income, money laundering and accepting bribes to fund his election campaign.

Kamlesh Singh has been charged for owning disproportionate assets and money laundering, while Shahi has been accused of receiving kickbacks from medicine suppliers.