Mumbai, May 4: Former Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister and senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Chhagan Bhujbal was granted bail by the Bombay High Court on Friday. The NCP legislator from Yeola in Nashik has been in jail for nearly two years and two months since his arrest on March 14, 2016, in certain cases pertaining to corruption and money laundering.
After his bail pleas were rejected on at least five previous occasions, Bhujbal, 71, got bail on Friday on various grounds including his frail health, advanced age and the fact that the trial has not yet started, his lawyer Sujay Kantawala told mediapersons.
NCP leaders Ajit Pawar, MP Supriya Sule-Pawar and state spokesperson Nawab Malik hailed the ruling as thousands of Bhujbal supporters erupted in celebrations with fireworks and distribution of sweets in both Mumbai and Nashik. However, former AAP leader and anti-graft activist Anjali Damania pointed out that the court has only granted him bail, “he has not been exonerated or acquitted in the corruption cases and he will again go to jail”.
The founder-president of the influential Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad, Bhujbal’s role during his tenure as Public Works Department Minister had been under a scanner after allegations of a scam in the construction of the Maharashtra Sadan in New Delhi, money laundering and other charges.
Suffering from ill health, he has been in and out of hospital several times in the past over two years, and it is not immediately known when he will return to active politics.
Starting his career with the Shiv Sena, the senior OBC leader who is an aggressive force in state politics is expected to walk out of custody later this evening after completing the bail formalities, including furnishing a bail bond amount of Rs 5 lakh, said his lawyer.
His nephew and former NCP MP from Nashik, Sameer Bhujbal, who was also arrested in February 2016 on various charges of corruption, is currently in judicial custody.