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CBI opposes builders’ plea in PF non-payment case

The CBI has opposed in the Bombay High Court a plea of builder Niranjan Hiranandani seeking to quash the charge sheet filed against him in 2010 in a criminal case of alleged non-payment of provident fund to the tune of Rs 9 crore. The central agency opposed the plea on the ground that Hiranandani was a key conspirator. The 61-year-old developer had approached the high court last week to quash and set aside the charge sheet filed against him by the CBI’s Anti-Corruption wing in September 2010 under charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

In his plea, he claimed it was a vexatious prosecution and that there was no material to support allegations of him defrauding the provident fund office. CBI lawyer Hiten Venegaonkar, however, opposed the plea and said Hiranandani was the main conspirator. “The statement of witnesses, including the petitioner’s employees, EPF consultants, point to his involvement in the offence.

The witnesses have said that fake employee names and a bogus register was prepared at the behest of and in consultation with the petitioner,” Venegaonkar argued. He added that since the charge sheet has been filed, the developer has the remedy of filing an application seeking discharge before the trial court and hence, this petition should be dismissed. A division bench of Acting Chief Justice V K Tahilramani and Justice M S Karnik after hearing arguments in the case reserved its order on the petition.

Hiranandani had approached the high court after a co-accused K Gopalan was discharged from the case. According to the prosecution, the Hiranandani Group had not deposited provident fund of their employees between the years 2003 to 2006. The alleged non-payment, as per a report submitted by the Employee Provident Fund Organisation in its departmental enquiry, was to the tune of Rs 9.36 crore. Apart from Hiranandani, two employees of the group and four officers from the EPFO have been arraigned as accused in the case. Following the EPFOs report, the CBI lodged an FIR in the case in March 2008.

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