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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Phone tapping case: HC grants protection from arrest to Rashmi Shukla till Mar 25

The senior IPS officer had on Wednesday filed a plea claiming that the FIR was lodged arbitrarily over “political vendetta” and that she was “falsely implicated” in the matter.

Written by Omkar Gokhale | Mumbai |
Updated: March 4, 2022 3:57:14 pm
Rashmi ShuklaIPS officer Rashmi Shukla (Express Photo by Pavan Khengre/File)

The Bombay High Court on Friday granted protection from arrest till March 25 to senior IPS officer Rashmi Shukla in her plea seeking to quash an FIR lodged against her at Bund Garden police station in Pune. The FIR is in connection with the alleged illegal phone tapping of state Congress president Nana Patole during the tenure of the previous BJP-led government in Maharashtra.

Shukla on Wednesday filed a plea through advocate Sameer Nangre which claimed that the FIR was lodged arbitrarily over “political vendetta” and she was “falsely implicated” in the matter.

A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N R Borkar was hearing Shukla’s plea.

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani for Shukla said she was being targeted by the ruling alliance in Maharashtra, as she had submitted a report disclosing the involvement of various political leaders in the transfers and postings of police officers in the state and that she should be granted interim protection from arrest pending hearing in the plea. He added that Shukla will extend her cooperation in the probe.

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Additional government pleader J P Yagnik, for the state government, opposed the prayer for interim relief and sought time to respond to the plea.

After hearing the submissions, the bench said, “Prima facie we are convinced that petitioner deserves protection.”

The bench noted that there was a delay in registering the FIR and while other officers are also involved in the case, only Shukla’s name features in the FIR.

“The petitioner is a high-ranking officer holding responsible post and therefore she needs to be given protection forthwith,” the bench noted.

The court directed the state to file its affidavit in reply to Shukla’s plea within two weeks and told the petitioner to file a rejoinder within a week. The court then posted the next hearing to March 25.

Last year, Patole had alleged that his phone was tapped during 2016-2017 on the pretext that it belonged to one Amjad Khan involved in “narcotics smuggling”. Patole had also alleged that the phones of Union minister Raosaheb Danve’s personal assistant, then BJP MP Sanjay Kakade and other elected representatives were tapped.

State Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil had then announced that the government will probe the allegations. A three-member committee headed by then DGP Sanjay Pandey was formed to conduct an inquiry. The other members of the committee included the state intelligence department (SID) commissioner and the additional commissioner of special branch.

As per the Pune police, the three-member committee conducted an inquiry to ascertain whether illegal phone tapping of elected representatives was done with wrong political motives between 2015 and 2019. The inquiry report submitted by the committee has been accepted by the state government. As per the police, the committee has stated in its report that Shukla did illegal phone tapping when she was the commissioner of Pune city police (between March 2016 and July 2018).

After being transferred from Pune city police in July 2018, Shukla headed the Maharashtra SID. She is currently posted in Hyderabad as the Additional Director General of CRPF (south zone). There are also allegations of illegal phone tapping when Shukla was heading the SID. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had cited a letter, purportedly written by Shukla, to the then DGP about alleged corruption in transfer of police officers.

On December 15, last year, the Bombay High Court had rejected a plea by Shukla challenging the FIR lodged by Mumbai police against unidentified persons for allegedly tapping phones and leaking confidential documents following a complaint by the SID.

The court, however, had said that Shukla was entitled to protection and directed the police that advance notice of seven working days be issued to the IPS officer in the event of any coercive steps being proposed to be taken against her.

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