Updated: December 16, 2021 12:55:16 am
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday dismissed a writ plea by the Maharashtra government seeking the constitution of an SIT monitored by a retired HC judge to probe the case pertaining to the FIR registered by the CBI against NCP leader and former state home minister Anil Deshmukh.
The court held that the Central agency’s contention that the plea was being filed by the state government as it did not want the investigation to proceed was not “baseless.”
“To conclude, considering the totality of the circumstances including the conduct of the Petitioner as noticed by the judicial orders and manifested from the record, the Petitioner is not entitled to any relief in this Petition. There is no substance in the contention of the Petitioner that the Respondent- CBI is disentitled to carry out investigation in the matter,” the HC said.
A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal had concluded hearing in the matter on November 26 and reserved its verdict in the state government’s plea seeking transfer of probe to a special investigation team (SIT).
The state government had raised grievances against summons issued by the agency to then Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and acting DGP Sanjay Pandey, claiming that its “highest officers” were being harassed.
After the Mumbai Police issued summons to CBI director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal to appear before the BKC cyber police station in connection with an FIR registered into the “illegal” phone tapping and data leak case, the CBI had issued summons to Kunte and Pandey, asking them to appear before it regarding the Deshmukh case.
Additional Solicitor Generals (ASGs) Aman Lekhi and Anil Singh for CBI had said that reliefs sought by the Maharashtra government on behalf of its two top officers was without any parens patriae (power to protect persons who are unable to act on their own behalf) jurisdiction.
The Central agency added that state’s contentions against Jaiswal were “misconceived” and were made to “mislead the court” as the officers concerned had themselves not filed the petition in the matter.
Lekhi said the CBI investigation was without any malafide, adding Deshmukh was not being probed because of Jaiswal’s “whim” but following the April 5 HC order that initiated a preliminary probe against the former home minister.
The agency pointed out that while Jaiswal was appointed as the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in May, the state did not raise its objections to the same before the HC or Supreme Court at that time. Denying CBI’s contentions, senior advocate Darius Khambata for the state government said a probe without Jaiswal, who as the former Maharashtra DGP took decisions on transfers and postings, at the helm of the organisation investigating the case was required to instill confidence among the citizens about impartiality of the investigation. The state government was seeking an independent probe and not stalling it, the lawyer added.
In its judgment, the court said Jaiswal had already become director of CBI even before the state government had filed its plea seeking quashing of portions of CBI FIR and observed, “If not in the High Court, at least when the SLP (special leave petition) was filed, the Petitioner state could have taken this ground before the Supreme Court, but it was not taken.”
The HC added: “The Court will have to take note of this conduct of the State of Maharashtra to bring challenges one after another in context of the argument of the respondent- CBI that sole intention of the Petitioner is to create hurdles in the investigation…We fail to understand how requesting to participate in the investigation would amount to harassment of these two officers.”
The court said there was no substance in the contention of the petitioner that because Jaiswal is now the director of CBI, the agency is not competent to carry on with the investigation. “Tying these facets with the Petitioner’s conduct noted earlier, it appears to us that this submission of the state based on the role of Jaiswal is only an attempt by the Petitioner to take the investigation somehow away from CBI so that it does not proceed. Apart from being without merit, this challenge based on the role of Jaiswal lacks bonafides,” the court said.
The bench clarified that its observations were not about the conduct of the state of Maharashtra in general but made as the state government was a petitioner in the case.
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