Cruise Bribery Case: HC grants Sameer Wankhede permission to amend plea seeking prosecution of bribe givertext_fields
Mumbai: The Bombay High Court has allowed former Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) zonal director Sameer Wankhede to amend his plea against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR in the cruise bribery case.
The amendment seeks to include a ground stating that, according to anti-corruption law, the alleged bribe giver should also face prosecution alongside the bribe taker.
The CBI had registered an FIR against Wankhede and others for allegedly attempting to extort a bribe of Rs 25 crore from actor Shah Rukh Khan and his staff to prevent implicating Khan's son, Aryan Khan, in the 2021 Cordelia cruise ship drug bust case.
Wankhede contended that Section 7A of the amended Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act mandates the prosecution of the bribe giver. He also sought to amend his plea on the grounds that the sanction obtained by the NCB, along with the complaint under Section 17A of the PC Act, was improper due to a lack of authority. He also highlighted that Section 13 of the PC Act designates disproportionate assets as an offense, yet the CBI did not charge him under this section.
Granting permission for the amendment, the court extended interim protection from coercive action to Wankhede until July 20, when the plea will be further heard. The division bench of Justice Ajey S Gadkari and Justice Shivkumar G Dige presided over the hearing of Wankhede's petition seeking to quash the CBI FIR, reported The Indian Express.
During arguments on June 28, Wankhede's counsel, senior advocate Aabad Ponda, emphasised that the central agencies lacked lawful prior sanction under Section 17A of the Act, as the sanction was obtained from the Home Ministry, while Wankhede was employed under the Finance Ministry. Ponda underscored that Wankhede had served under the Ministry of Finance and the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence, even during his tenure with the NCB. He raised three grounds to challenge the CBI FIR.
In response, advocate Kuldeep Patil, representing the central agency, stated that these grounds were not part of Wankhede's original plea. Patil requested an opportunity for the CBI to respond to the newly raised grounds.
Ponda then requested the court to allow the amendment, which was granted, with the condition that no further amendments could be made to the plea.
The court will reconvene on July 20 to hear the amended plea.