Former Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar on Monday got temporary relief in an alleged scam in the purchase of body bags for Covid-19 victims after the prosecution told the Bombay High Court that the police would not take any coercive steps against her for two days.
Pednekar had approached the high court with an anticipatory bail plea, which was earlier rejected by the Mumbai Sessions Court. During the hearing on Monday before a bench of Justice NJ Jamadar, the prosecution sought a time of two days to make the submissions.
Advocate Rahul Aarote, appearing for Pednekar, said, “The applicant is an ex-mayor who is apprehending arrest in the case.” The prosecutor then said, “The investigating officer is here. We will make a statement that we will hold our hands. Please keep this for hearing day after tomorrow.”
The bench then posted the matter for hearing on Wednesday (September 6).
A case against Pednekar and some senior civic officials, including IAS officer P Velrasu and the Deputy Municipal Commissioner, was registered for allegedly purchasing body bags at inflated rates during the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was alleged that a company named Vedanta Innotech Pvt Ltd (VIPL) had allegedly supplied body bags for the Covid-19 victims to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) at an inflated price of Rs 6,719 a piece. The contract was awarded to VIPL even as the contract was already awarded to another company, Care One Solutions, to supply body bags at a rate of Rs 2,583 per piece.
The sessions court, while rejecting the pre-arrest bail, had observed that “the allegations appear to be in respect of not protecting the interest of a public body like the BMC, resulting in criminal breach of trust by the applicant being a public servant”.
“At first view, the allegations show conspiracy involving misuse of powers and public money,” the court observed.
“The funds in question appear to be government money i.e., public funds. She appears to be involved in economic offences of huge amount, which is public money. So, the allegations need to be viewed seriously and considered as grave offences affecting the economy of the country and also causing serious threat or loss to the financial health of the country,” the court ruled.
In her pre-arrest bail plea, Pednekar said she was falsely implicated in the case and the complaint against her was politically motivated.
She asserted that the case was lodged only after the split in the Shiv Sena party and that she was being targeted as she belonged to the Uddhav Thackeray faction.