A court in Mumbai on Monday rejected the anticipatory bail application of Maharashtra BJP leader Kirit Somaiya in a case pertaining to alleged misappropriation of over Rs 57 crore funds collected to save aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
Kirit Somaiya and his son Neil have been named accused in the case and apprehending arrest, they had sought pre-arrest bail from additional sessions judge R N Rokade.
The court is likely to pass an order on Neil Somaiya's anticipatory bail application on Tuesday.
The judge, while refusing pre-arrest bail to Kirit Somaiya, said there were pictures to show he collected money in the name of saving the decommissioned aircraft carrier from getting dismantled, but the same was not deposited with the state governor's office.
Kirit Somaiya, a former Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai, said the case is driven by political vendetta.
Senior counsel Ashok Mundargi, appearing for the accused, argued that the 'Save Vikrant' campaign was launched not only by the BJP, but also the Congress and the Shiv Sena, who are now allies in the state's ruling coalition.
The entire campaign was for saving the iconic warship from getting dismantled and converting it into a museum, he said.
The lawyer submitted that the fund-raising exercise took place way back in 2013 and questioned the delay in lodging a complaint alleging misappropriation of funds now.
"After nine years they are saying there is no such account with the governor's office. They are taking objection in 2022, that receipt was not given to the complainant. What took them so long?" Mundargi argued.
The senior counsel submitted that the campaign to save INS Vikrant was launched by the political party to which the accused belongs and hence, what happened with the collected funds was not his client's concern.
Kirit Somaiya and his son managed to collect Rs 11,000 as it was nearly impossible to mobilise Rs 57 crore during the door-to-door campaign, the senior counsel submitted.
Mundargi concluded that the entire case was nothing but a political vendetta and the so-called FIR was a political move, hence the applicants (BJP leader and his son) ought to be granted protection from coercive action.
Special public prosecutor Pradip Gharat opposed the ABA, saying they have got statements of witnesses to corroborate the accused collected money in the name of saving INS Vikrant.
"Even if the complainant filed the complaint based on media reports, the facts are not speculative that both the accused moved around Mumbai to collect funds," the SPP told court.
Approximately Rs 7 crore was required to save the aircraft and if the accused had deposited the collected amount then there wouldn't have been need to dismantle it, Gharat added.
Gharat submitted that Kirit Somaiya had tweeted on December 13, 2013, that he met the then- Maharashtra governor and requested him to save the warship. His tweet further said Mumbaikars are ready to contribute Rs 150 core for 'Vikrant Saheed Smarak Museum'.
his shows the accused would have collected much more, the SPP said.
Certain points are a matter of investigation and custodial interrogation of the accused is required considering the position and money collected, the prosecution said.
The case against the father-son duo has been filed based on a complaint lodged by a 53-year-old former Army man at the Trombay police station in suburban Mankhurd.
They have been booked under Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections 406 (criminal breach of trust), 420 (cheating) and 34 (common intention).
Kirit Somaiya has denied any wrongdoing.
Commissioned in 1961, INS Vikrant, a Majestic-class aircraft carrier of the Indian Navy, had played a key role in enforcing the naval blockade of East Pakistan during the Indo-Pak war of 1971.
It was decommissioned in 1997. In January 2014, the ship was sold through an online auction and scrapped in November that year.
The complainant said Somaiya had started a campaign to raise funds for saving INS Vikrant. He had said that he had given donations to Somaiya for saving the ship and the BJP leader had collected more than Rs 57 crore for the purpose.
However, instead of depositing the amount with the Maharashtra governor's secretary office, he misappropriated the funds, the complainant alleged.