PNB fraud: Mehul Choksi cites TV debate phone-in in plea to get NBW cancelled
Mumbai, Sep 21: Fugitive jeweller Mehul Choksi, a co-accused in the Punjab National Bank fraud case, on Friday moved the special CBI court here for cancellation of a non-bailable warrant against him claiming he has reasons to believe that his return to India might endanger his life.
On May 22 this year, after taking cognisance of the second charge sheet filed in the Rs 12,636-crore PNB fraud case by the CBI, the special court had issued the NBW against Choksi. Choksi, in an application filed Friday through his lawyer Sanjay Abbott, said his apprehensions over his safety are based upon what transpired during a recent television debate on the fraud.
He told the court that he was "shocked" to watch a debate on a national television news channel where two callers phoned in to share their opinion on the fraud. The callers, Choksi claimed in the plea, "suggested that a special team be formed to track Mehul Choksi down and shoot him to death once he was brought back to India". Choksi claimed that the callers said that such treatment would send out a strong message to society and prevent further cases of frauds and fiscal scams.
The fugitive jeweller also claimed that the news anchor concerned and the panelists did not object to the comments made by the caller. Instead, the anchor even laughed at the comments and the same makes it apparent that the anchor and the panelists too "tacitly" agreed with what the callers suggested, Choksi said in the plea.
"From the above two calls made by the callers and the tacit approval given to the same by the news anchor and the panelists, it is clear that the averments made by the applicant (Choksi) in the application filed before this court regarding a threat to his life and the fear of mob lynching is vindicated," the application read. Choksi also sent some audio and video CDs claiming that they contained the cited footage from the news channel debate. He has urged the court to make his submission a part of the court records and, in light of the same, to cancel the NBW issued against him.
The special court has now directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to file its reply to the application by October 3 this year, which is the next date of hearing in the case. This is the second such application filed by Choksi before the special court, claiming a threat to his life and seeking that the NBW be cancelled. In June this year, he had filed a plea claiming that he had been advised bed rest on account of his ill health following a "heart operation," and he feared that once in India, the probe agencies would not help him secure the kind of medical treatment and supervision he required.
At that time, he had also said that there existed a "trend of mob lynching" in the country presently, and he feared that if he returned to India, he might become a victim of such lynching. The CBI charge sheet named Choksi, the managing director of Gitanjali group, former PNB MD and CEO Usha Ananthasubramanian, then PNB executive directors Brahmaji Rao and Sanjiv Sharan, and PNB deputy manager Gokulnath Shetty, among others as key accused in the case.
While urging the court to issue the NBW, the CBI had argued that its issuance would allow the probe agency to approach the Interpol for issuing a Red Corner Notice against Choksi, Nirav Modi and some other persons accused in the case.