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Rajasthan HC Criticises Arrest Warrants Against Shourie, Suri in Laxmi Vilas Disinvestment Case

File photo of former Union Minister Arun Shourie.

File photo of former Union Minister Arun Shourie.

The bench was hearing a petition by Jyotsana Suri, Managing Director of the Bharat Hotels Ltd who also faced possibility of arrest following the order of the Special CBI court, Jodhpur, on September 15.

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Utkarsh Anand

The Rajasthan High Court on Tuesday severely criticised the CBI court for issuing arrest warrants against former union minister Arun Shourie and four others in connection with the 2002 disinvestment of Laxmi Vilas Palace Hotel in Udaipur.

"This Court is constrained to observe that the Court below has not recorded any reason worth the name before resorting to the extreme mode of securing presence of an accused - issuing arrest warrant," said Justice Dinesh Mehta.

The bench was hearing a petition by Jyotsana Suri, Managing Director of the Bharat Hotels Ltd who also faced possibility of arrest following the order of the Special CBI court, Jodhpur, on September 15.

Apart from her, the court had issued arrest warrants against then Disinvestment Minister Shourie, then Disinvestment Secretary Pradip Baijal, asset valuer and financial advisor to the government at the time.

Representing Bhasin, senior counsel PP Chaudhary and Harish Salve submitted in the High Court that issuance of an arrest warrant directly, without even putting her on notice or issuance of summons was completely wrong.

Chaudhary and Salve also contended that after the CBI itself sought to close the case since there was no evidence of illegality, the special court was not justified to reject the closure report without any sound basis.

The bench agreed with the lawyers, and said, "Having heard learned counsel for the parties and upon perusal of the material available on record, this Court is of the prima facie opinion that learned Court below was not justified in issuing warrant of arrest to the petitioner."

It added that the issuance of warrant of arrest becomes all the more serious, when the petitioner was not put to any notice of the pending proceedings.

On Suri's contentions, the bench said, "Further, while issuing arrest warrant, Court below has not recorded any finding as to why petitioner’s custodial interrogation is required, particularly when all the relevant documents are on

the record of the Court below and the transaction dates back to the year 2001, when she was not at the helm of affairs of the Company."

It also found fault with the order of the special judge in appointing the District Collector, Udaipur as official receiver of the hotel, even as the officer maintained he cannot run the hotel.

Issuing its interim order, the high court stayed the arrest warrant against Suri and asked her to appear before the CBI court and furnish monetary bond and securities.

It also directed the District Collector, Udaipur to hand over Laxmi Vilas back to Suri's representative after preparing inventory of the property.

Suri has been asked not to sell or alienate any part of Laxmi Vilas hotel and also not leave the country in the meantime.

The High Court will hear the case next on October 15, before which Shourie, who has also filed a similar petition before the court, is expected to get the same relief.


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