He and two other lawyers have been accused of creating back-dated documents to help a client grab land in Raigad.
Top criminal lawyer Ashok Saraogi, who hit headlines for representing gangster Abu Salem in the Pradeep Jain murder case and is currently representing Rahul Raj in the Pratyusha Banerjee suicide case, was arrested on Sunday for cheating and forging documents to help a client grab land in Raigad.
Saraogi was remanded in police custody till April 25, while two more lawyers, Sohel Kazi and I V Y Tauro, who too have been accused in the case, will spend three days each in custody starting Monday.
The arrest on Sunday came after Saraogi surrendered at the Azad Maidan police station following his decision to withdraw an anticipatory bail filed before the Supreme Court. The anticipatory bail application in the Supreme Court was Saraogi’s third attempt to avoid arrest in a case where he stands accused of helping businessman Ashish Bagaria and his father Santosh Kumar Bagaria usurp nine parcels of land belonging Ashish’s estranged wife Nickee in Raigad. Earlier, his anticipatory bail applications at Sessions Court and Bombay High Court, where the land grab case is being heard, too were rejected.
In the case filed by Nickee in the court, she has alleged that her husband and his father forged back-dated a memorandum of understanding to enter into a deal to acquire the Raigad land to one of their relatives Vinod Jhunjhunwala without her knowledge. Later, under sustained questioning in the court, the Bagarias admitted that they had paid Saraogi Rs 5 lakh to create backdated documents to match with a power of attorney Nickee had revoked in 2014.
The MoU stated that the land was jointly owned by the Bagarias and Jhunjhunwala and that it was being transferred in the latter’s name in exchange for a loan of Rs 92 lakh. The understanding was that when the land was sold, the Bagarias would pay an additional Rs 1 crore to Jhunjhunwala.
The MoU further stated that Advocate Sohel Kazi would be the sole arbitrator in case of any disputes arising between the two parties. Kazi was also allegedly made to sign an arbitration award backdated to June 9, 2014, in which he stated that as a result of a dispute between the two partners, the land would be transferred to Jhunjhunwala unless the Bagarias and Nickee paid the former Rs 1.92 crore in 30 days. Advocate Tauro then allegedly wrote to the Raigad tehsildar’s office, informing him of the award.
Nickee came to know about the entire deal only when the tehsildar’s office got in touch with her.
Nickee filed a case against the Bagarias in January 2015. Alarmed by the allegations of cheating and forgery, Justice J S Kathawalla in June the same years ordered an inquiry by an IPS officer. The inquiry revealed that pre-dated documents were created to help the Bagarias grab the land. Subsequently, an FIR was registered against Saraogi, Kazi, and Tauro in October.
While rejecting Saraogi’s bail application, Justice A S Gadkari said that he had exploited the judicial system for pecuniary gains. “Taking into consideration the serious nature of the crime, a thorough investigation of the complaint lodged by the police officer is of utmost importance to unearth the truth involved in the present crime. The applicant has tried to exploit the judicial system for gaining pecuniary benefits,” he observed.
Though Advocate Aftab Qureshi,pleaded before the court on Monday for a shorter police custody for his client, arguing that there was no chance of him absconding, the judge did not take the plea into account.