Gujarat High Court Examines Crowdfunding Regulations in Saket Gokhale Case

Gujarat HC reviews crowdfunding regulations in Saket Gokhale's case. ₹76 lakhs raised, facing charges under PMLA & IPC. Next hearing on May 1st.

On Monday, the Gujarat High Court looked into the rules about crowdfunding while dealing with a case filed by Saket Gokhale, a member of Trinamool Congress and a Rajya Sabha MP. He wanted to cancel a case against him, which said he fooled people by raising money through crowdfunding.

The judge, Justice HD Suthar, said that crowdfunding is a new and interesting topic that needs more understanding. He asked both the prosecutor and Gokhale's lawyer to give their thoughts.

During the hearing, Justice Suthar asked, "Are there any specific rules for crowdfunding in India? Many countries have restrictions."

"SEBI's rules, I believe, are only for NGOs and not for individuals. Crowdfunding is new, and many countries haven't accepted it. In India, it's not clear. It could cause problems," Justice Suthar added.

During Monday's hearing, Gokhale's lawyer, Somnath Vatsa, argued that the charges were baseless. He said there was no proof of deceiving people. Vatsa also said that while NGOs have some rules for crowdfunding, individuals don't.

Vatsa explained that Gokhale had conducted three online campaigns and asked for donations to support them. He said all campaigns ended five months before the case was filed.

Vatsa argued that if someone asks openly for funds to support themselves and gets donations, it shouldn't be seen as fraud. He said even the person who filed the complaint admitted to donating some money.

On the other side, SPP Mitesh Amin said that although Gokhale raised about ₹76 lakhs through crowdfunding, only a small part went for filing RTI queries.

Amin argued that out of ₹76 lakhs, only ₹282 was spent on RTI queries. "Isn't this cheating?" Amin questioned. He said Gokhale took money to support RTI and other causes but used it for personal gain.

"Is he really working for the public?" Amin asked.

Vatsa said that if the case against Gokhale is dropped, it might affect the PMLA case against him.

Amin pointed out that Gokhale is already facing charges under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) for allegedly using these funds wrongly.

Gokhale wants to cancel an FIR against him, saying he didn't use the money wrongly. He also wants to cancel other criminal actions against him, like a chargesheet and a trial court's decision to not drop charges.

Gokhale faces many charges under different parts of the Indian Penal Code and the IT Act.

The Court will discuss the matter again on May 1st.