Mumbai, Apr 5 (ILNS) The Bombay High Court today allowed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to conduct a preliminary enquiry into the allegations of malpractices by Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, levelled by former Commissioner of Mumbai Police Param Bir Singh.
The Bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni said that since the state has already taken steps for a probe by a high-level committee into the matter, the CBI need not immediately register an FIR in the case. The Court directed that the preliminary probe should be completed in 15 days and that CBI can decide on the future course of action after this preliminary inquiry is completed.
“Director of CBI is allowed to conduct preliminary inquiry. Such preliminary inquiry be ordered in accordance with law and be concluded within 15 days. Once the preliminary inquiry is complete, Director CBI (would) be at discretion to (decide on the) further course of action”, the Court said.
The Bench had reserved its order in the plea on Wednesday, after hearing the parties at length. Delivering the verdict this morning, the Court said, “We do not want to get involved in the other aspects of maintainability…The GR passed by the government for high level committee leads us to believe that there is no interference required…”
The Court, however, agreed that the allegations were serious and warranted an independent probe.
“We agree with Nankani and Jha that it is an unprecedented case before the court… Deshmukh is Home Minister who leads the police… There has to be an independent enquiry… But CBI need not register FIR immediately or take up Patil’s complaint”, the Court said.
Singh had initially approached the Supreme Court with his plea. The Supreme Court had observed that the allegations and counter allegations between Singh and Deshmukh were serious, but the case should be heard by the High Court first. Subsequently, Singh withdrew the plea before the Supreme Court and moved the High Court.
The developments came close on the heels of a letter written by Singh to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, alleging that Deshmukh used to frequently interfere with police investigations and repeatedly call officers and give them instructions on the course of action to be followed by them while conducting investigations.
Singh claimed that Deshmukh had held meetings in February, 2021 at his residence with police officers, including Sachin Vaze of Crime Intelligence Unit, Mumbai and Sanjay Patil, ACP Social Service Branch, Mumbai, “bypassing their seniors and had instructed them that he had a target to accumulate Rs 100 crore every month and had directed (the police officer) to collect money from various establishments and other sources.” ILNS/SNG/RJ
Before the High Court, Senior Advocate Vikram Nankani appeared for Singh. Advocates Subhash Jha and Alankar Kirpekar appeared for other petitioners in connected matters and argued for a probe into the allegations.
Highlighting that one of the trigger points for Singh’s letter was the transfers of officers, Nankani submitted that police officers were forced to work for their political masters.
Referring to the Maharashtra government’s move to constitute a committee to probe the allegations, Nankani submitted that even the State government believes that there is a need for an inquiry. However, he added that the State’s move was inadequate.
When the Court asked Singh to approach a magistrate to register an FIR, Nankani replied that approaching the magistrate would only lead to filing of a police complaint but not a CBI probe.
Also before the Court were three connected pleas:
- A petition filed by Ghanshyam Upadhyay seeking the formation of a court-monitored Special Investigation Team (SIT) to look into the extortion charges alleged by Param Bir Singh.
- A plea filed by chartered accountant Mohan Bhide seeking the formation of a committee headed by a retired Supreme Court or High Court judge for investigating into the allegations.
- A plea filed by Dr. Jaishri Patil, seeking a probe by the CBI or any other independent agency into the allegations of malpractices alleged by Singh.
Appearing for Upadhyay, Jha argued that considering the unprecedented situation where a Home Minister is involved, the Court should have taken suo motu cognizance.
Kirpekar, appearing for Bhide, stated the inquiry conducted will take away doubts from the minds of the public.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni opposed the plea stating that it was not maintainable.
He argued that Singh had placed his personal grievances in the pleadings and played the victim card. The AG went on to contend that the statements attributed to Deshmukh in Singh’s letter containing the allegations were false.
The Court had earlier asked the counsel how it could direct for an investigation when there was no complaint filed. The Chief Justice added that the appropriate course of action would be to file a complaint, and if there was no action on the same, then the Court could be approached.