With Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar set to make an appearance before the Enforcement Directorate this afternoon, the Mumbai Police has banned large gatherings near Ballard Estate in south Mumbai where the probe agency's office is located. NCP workers had staged protests in Mumbai when Mr Pawar was named in a money laundering case earlier this week.
Sharad Pawar has not been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate in the money laundering case in connection with a scam at the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, but the senior opposition leader says he would appear before the agency before he gets busy with the state elections, less than a month away.
"Section 144 imposed for tomorrow at Mumbai's Ballard Estate where the Enforcement Directorate office is located," the Mumbai Police said on Thursday evening, anticipating protests. State NCP's office is in the same area and there is a possibility that large number of NCP supporters would gather during Sharad Pawar's visit," a senior police official told news agency PTI.
A late night communication from the police said that prohibitory orders have also been imposed under the jurisdictions of Colaba, Cuffe Parade, Marine Drive, Dongri, Azad Maidan, JJ Marg and MRA Marg police stations.
"Police is detaining NCP workers in Mumbai and in other parts of the state, it is not right. Sharad Pawar will definitely go to ED office at 2 pm today. BJP government is misusing Enforcement Directorate," party leader Nawab Malik said today.
Sharad Pawar had appealed to NCP workers not to gather outside the office of the Enforcement Directorate.
"As mentioned during my press conference yesterday, I will be visiting the Mumbai ED office at Ballard Estate tomorrow, Friday 27 September, at 14.00 hrs. @MumbaiPolice @NCPspeaks," Mr Pawar tweeted on Thursday.
"I appeal to all my NCP cadre and supporters not to gather near the ED office premises," he had said.
Mr Pawar has questioned the timing of the case, given the assembly election in Maharashtra is barely a month away. "I would have been surprised had such action not been taken against me after the kind of response I receive during my visits to various districts of the state," said the leader, who, in alliance with the Congress, is taking on the ruling BJP-Shiv Sena alliance.
Though the NCP chief has been named in a complaint regarding a Rs. 25,000-crore scam involving the sanction of loans by the Maharashtra State Cooperative Bank, the police FIR does not list him as an accused even though the complainant calls him 'kingpin'. His nephew Ajit Pawar has also been named.
While a large number of NCP leaders are allegedly involved in the running of the bank, Mr Pawar is not one of them.
The case involves alleged violation of banking laws and Reserve Bank of India guidelines while disbursing loans to the state's sugar factories and spinning mills. Many of those who sanctioned the loans were allegedly linked to the owners of the mill owners.
After an order from the Delhi High Court, a case was filed last month by the Maharashtra Police. Later, the Enforcement Directorate started an investigation into possible money-laundering.