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Can’t have impartial probe with Subodh Jaiswal as CBI chief, govt tells HC

The case relates to former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh, through his March 20 letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, accusing then home minister Deshmukh of corruption in transfer and postings of police officers.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
October 22, 2021 12:18:16 am
CBI director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal (File)

The Maharashtra government, while seeking a probe by court monitored special investigation team into an FIR registered by the CBI against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh, told the Bombay High Court on Thursday that as CBI Director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal, also a former DGP of Maharashtra, was part of the Police Establishment Board (PEB) that was overseeing transfer and postings of police officers in question, the central agency cannot conduct an impartial and independent probe.

The state has sought direction to stay the proceedings arising out of the CBI probe and raised grievance against summons issued by the agency to state Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and DGP Sanjay Pandey, claiming that “highest officers” are being harassed.

A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal was hearing the state’s plea against the CBI probe and summons issued to the senior officials.

The case relates to former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh, through his March 20 letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, accusing then home minister Deshmukh of corruption in transfer and postings of police officers. Soon after it completed a preliminary inquiry in the case as per an April 5 HC order, the CBI had booked Deshmukh and other persons on April 21.

After the police issued summons to the CBI director 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 recently issued a third summon to Kunte and Pandey, asking them to appear before it this week.

Senior counsel Darius Khambata, representing Maharashtra, said that Jaiswal became the CBI director on May 26. He used to oversee transfers and postings in question as then state DGP and therefore, an agency headed by him cannot conduct “impartial, independent and fair probe”, he added.

Khambata further said that it is surprising that while CBI is summoning Kunte and Pandey, who were not part of the PEB, Singh and Jaiswal – who were part of PEB at the relevant time – have not been called for interrogation.

“Jaiswal was heading the very board which decides it (transfers and postings). We do not know if Jaiswal had brought the evidence during the CBI probe… We now have an investigation by CBI with this person as head of this agency? Then why not have Anil Deshmukh as director of CBI? It is not that Jaiswal is going to issue summons to himself and his junior officers will not do so either. Let there be a fair, full and complete probe and it is critical to instill public confidence,” Khambata added.

“Let them (CBI) issue summons to Jaiswal and Param Bir Singh. It is very clear that CBI is looking into transfers and postings at the relevant time, including when Jaiswal was DGP and because he was member of PEB, and same is critical to the probe. Inherently and functionally there will be a bias, if the head of an organisation investigating the case is subject matter of probe.”

However, Solicitor General of India Tushar Mehta, along with Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aman Lekhi – representing CBI – contested the “misconceived” plea saying that Maharashtra government had filed it to derail the probe, despite its several failed attempts earlier.

“The state government has no role to play in the investigations but is only trying to help the accused. Rather than trying to derail the investigations, it can get the issues examined. Jaiswal’s appointment was made in May and the state is coming to court in October. If they (Kunte and Pandey) feel they are potential accused and are going to be affected by the probe, they can file separate pleas,” said Mehta.
The HC asked CBI to reply to the plea within one week and orally said that if Kunte and Pandey are summoned again before the next hearing, they are at liberty to approach the court.
The high court will hear the plea on October 28.

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