Kishori Pednekar was Mumbai mayor from November 2019 till March 2022 (File)
A sessions court in Mumbai on Tuesday denied anticipatory bail to former Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar in connection with an alleged scam in the purchase of body bags for Covid-19 victims, saying that she was accused of an economic offence involving a huge amount of public money.
The allegations against her were in respect of "not protecting the interest of a public body" like the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), resulting in a criminal breach of trust, the court said.
Fearing arrest in the case, the Shiv Sena (UBT) leader had earlier this month filed an anticipatory bail application.
Additional sessions judge S B Joshi, however, refused relief to Ms Pednekar and two other accused.
Mumbai police's Economic Offences Wing (EOW) registered a case against Ms Pednekar and two senior officials of the BMC under various Indian Penal Code (IPC) sections on a complaint filed by BJP leader Kirit Somaiya.
It was alleged that there was a misappropriation of funds and irregularities in the management of health facilities and purchase of body bags for people who died of Covid, masks and other items by the BMC during the pandemic.
Ms Pednekar was Mumbai mayor from November 2019 till March 2022 when the term of the BMC's general body ended. Fresh civic elections are yet to be held.
In her pre-arrest bail plea, filed through advocate Rahul Arote, Pednekar claimed she was “falsely implicated in the case” and the complaint against her was politically motivated.
Mr Somaiya, a former Lok Sabha MP from Mumbai, is a habitual complainant who has a history of targeting politicians who do not owe allegiance to his party, she alleged.
Special public prosecutor Seema Deshpande opposed the plea, claiming that misusing her powers as mayor, Ms Pednekar and other accused got canceled the purchase orders given to another firm.
Subsequently, the BMC purchased 1200 body bags at a higher rate of Rs 6,719 apiece from Vedant InnoTech Private Limited (VIPL), the prosecution said.
Thus, during May 16, 2020, to June 7, 2020, there was a misappropriation of public funds of Rs 49.63 lakh, it alleged.
The court, in its order, said there were serious allegations against the former mayor regarding not protecting the interest of a public body like BMC, "resulting in a criminal breach of trust by the applicant being a public servant." “Prima facie (on the face of it) allegations show conspiracy involving misuse of powers and public money. She appears to be involved in the economic offences of a huge amount, which is public money,” the court noted.
The allegations were about “grave offences affecting the economy of the country and also causing serious threat or loss to the financial health of the country”, it added.
Without custodial interrogation it cannot be said “if she is not involved or falsely involved in the crime in question” and the grant of anticipatory bail will "certainly hamper proper and effective investigation," the court said.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)