”I’m thankful to the court,” a visibly emotional Shiv Sena (Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray) Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Raut told the special judge who granted him bail in a money laundering case on Wednesday, hundred days after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED).
Special judge MG Despande responded by saying he just did his duty and decisions of courts are based on “the merit of the case”.
The Shiv Sena (UBT) leader, who was arrested on August 1, walked out of Mumbai’s Arthur Road Jail in the evening, hours after securing bail in the money laundering case pertaining to the redevelopment of Patra Chawl in Goregaon.
The special court, handling cases under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, had last week reserved its order on Raut’s bail plea after hearing lengthy arguments from defence and prosecution (ED) sides.
The Rajya Sabha member (60) entered the courtroom at around 12:15 pm dressed in a khaki waistcoat over white kurta and a pair of matching pyjamas. His family members and a number of supporters were present in the court in anticipation of a positive outcome.
Lawyers from both sides were present in the court, ready with their next legal moves depending on the court’s order.
Even as Raut, his family members and supporters were waiting anxiously, the judge seemed to be in no hurry. He kept dictating the order to his stenographer, unperturbed by crowd building in his courtroom.
Finally, at around 1:15 PM, the courtroom burst into cheers and applause. It was the moment when court staff informed that the parliamentarian’s bail plea has been allowed.
Emotions ran high as people hugged each other and congratulatory messages poured in the court. Be it family members or Raut’s supporters, everyone was delighted. For a moment, it looked like a scene straight from a courtroom drama movie. However, celebration took a pause briefly when the ED sought a stay on execution of the bail order. The Shiv Sena (UBT) leader had to wait for another hour before the court decided on the ED plea as it was time for lunch break.
Even though there were some uncertainties over execution of the bail order, Raut’s supporters were already in jubilant mood as their “beloved saheb” was about to walk out of jail after spending more than three months in prison.
They started greeting each other with the chants of ‘Jai Maharashtra’ and smeared coloured powder on each other’s faces.
As the court assembled post-lunch, a dash of nervousness was visible on, otherwise calm, Raut’s face. However, the court didn’t take long in announcing that the ED’s plea had been rejected, paving the way for the MP’s release.
After use of colours, it was time for some fireworks as Raut’s supporters burst crackers outside the court premises, an unusual scene for regular court attendees, be it litigants, lawyers or even journalists.
When it was time for Raut to be taken back to the prison for completing formalities for his release, the veteran politician, with a folded hand, told the judge in Marathi, ”Nyalacha abhari” (I am thankful to the court). Finally, at around 6:30 pm, Raut walked out of the Arthur Road Jail in central Mumbai, capping a day of high drama and emotions.