By Quaid Najmi
Mumbai, Nov 22 (IANS) In a significant observation, the Bombay High Court said on Monday that the allegations levelled by Maharashtra minister Nawab Malik against Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede and his family cannot be termed as ‘totally false’, as it declined to pass any restraining order against Malik.
“At this prima facie stage, it cannot be said the allegations (levelled by Malik) are totally false,” said Justice Madhav Jamdar, while refusing to accept the plea filed by Wankhede’s father, Dnyandev Wankhede, to stop the Nationalist Congress Party leader from posting any defamatory material against the family on social media.
“Satyameva Jayate. The fight against wrongdoings will continue,” Malik tweeted from Dubai on the initial development in the defamation case of Rs 1.25 crore filed against him by Wankhede Senior.
While ruling out a ‘blanket injunction’ against Malik as sought by the Wankhedes, Justice Jamdar advised the minister to exercise “reasonable care” to verify the allegations he levels against the NCB officer before going public with them.
Noting that the ‘right to privacy’ must be balanced with ‘freedom of speech’, and that people have the right to comment on the actions of a person in official capacity, the court observed that serious allegations (of extortion) have been levelled against Wankhede by Prabhakar Sail, an NCB witness, in the recent cruise party raid case.
The court orders came on the plea in the defamation suit filed by Wankhede Senior seeking ad-interim relief to prevent Malik, a senior Nationalist Congress Party leader, from putting up any defamatory posts on social media pertaining to the alleged fake documents related to his religion, family, official and related materials.
In the past over six weeks, Malik has played havoc with the Wankhedes, posting the officer’s birth certificate, school leaving certificate, caste papers, marriage-related documents and photographs, acquiring a liquor licence when he was a minor, submitting alleged fake documents to get a plum Central government job, etc.
Following the series of exposes by the minister, Wankhede Senior had approached the Bombay High Court with the defamation case, placing 28 documents challenging the set of papers submitted by Malik.
Malik’s legal team comprising senior advocates Atul Damle and Kunal Damle argued that the minister had reasonably verified all the documents he posted on social media.
He had even filed a precipice requesting to submit additional documents on the court records, which was allowed last week.
Wankhede’s lawyer Arshad Shaikh contended that Malik’s tweets were politically motivated and intended to avenge the arrest of his son-in-law, Sameer Khan, in a drugs case by Wankhede. Khan spent nearly eight months in jail before being released on bail.
Malik, who is also the national spokesperson of NCP, has been running a campaign targeting the NCB officer on multiple counts such as the ‘farzi’ (fraudulent) raid on the cruise ship, targeting high-profile personalities to derive maximum publicity, allegedly making an extortion demand from Shah Rukh Khan to release his son Aryan Khan, and allegedly submitting fake documents to corner a plum job in the IRS in reserved category.
Wankhede’s family has, however, rubbished all charges.
Not willing to backtrack, Malik on Monday hit out again by posting pictures of Sameer Wankhede – whom he has been calling a ‘Muslim’ – signing the ‘nikaah-nama’ (marriage certificate) before a cleric.
The cruiser raid party and the alleged extortion charges are being probed separately by the NCB Delhi team and the Mumbai Police.
Meanwhile, in a major development, Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil on Monday indicated that in the wake of the recent Bombay High Court observations in the Aryan Khan bail matter, the Mumbai Police would probe if the Narcotics Control Bureau raid on a cruise ship was “fake” or not.
In the detailed order on the bail pleas of Khan, Munmun Dhameha and Arbaaz Merchant, Justice Nitin Sambre had said that there was “prima facie no positive evidence” against them on the NCB’s charges pertaining to “conspiracy and common intent” in the case.
When questioned, Walse-Patil said that against this backdrop, the city police will investigate if the raid on the Cordelia Cruise ship, led by NCB Zonal Director Sameer Wankhede was ‘fake’ or otherwise.
This will be the second probe into the case by the Mumbai Police which is already probing the charges of ‘extortion’ levelled by a NCB witness against Wankhede since October 27.
By Quaid Najmi