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Thursday, December 09, 2021

Maharashtra tells HC can’t trace Param Bir Singh, defence says not yet ‘absconder’

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, representing Param Bir Singh, said that the state has not declared Singh absconding yet and should continue the statement till further hearing.

Written by Varinder Bhatia , Yogesh Naik , Omkar Gokhale , Jayprakash S Naidu | Chandigarh, Mumbai |
Updated: October 21, 2021 8:08:56 am
Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. (Express Photo by Ganesh Shirsekar)

ON WEDNESDAY, the Maharashtra government told the Bombay High Court that it was no longer willing to adhere to an assurance it had provided through a statement in May that it would not take any coercive action against former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh on an FIR lodged against him by Thane Police under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

“In view of other developments, we are getting reports that he is not traceable. Therefore, we cannot give a statement in his matter,” Senior Advocate Darius Khambata, representing the state government, told a division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal.

The Indian Express visited Param Bir’s official residence in Mumbai and traced three other residential properties owned solely by him, or jointly with relatives, in Chandigarh, Navi Mumbai and Mumbai’s Juhu. It came across a group of bemused policemen, wary staff at a housing society — and a brother who described all the cases against Param Bir as “totally false and politically motivated”.

In Chandigarh, the mandatory annual declaration of immovable property by Param Bir on January 1, 2021, shows that he owns a house jointly with his two brothers in the Sector 27 locality.

Speaking to The Indian Express over phone, one of the brothers, Manbir Singh Bhadana, said: “He had come to Chandigarh, and was staying with us till about three months ago. Then he moved out, we don’t know where. We have not been in touch with him for close to three months now.”

Wednesday’s submission by the state government comes nearly three weeks after Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil flagged reports that the senior IPS officer, who went on leave from his post of DG Home Guards citing ill health on May 5, may have left the country — and said that a lookout notice has been issued.

“We are aware of (the lookout notice), but he had left Chandigarh much before it was issued,” said Bhadana, an advocate who had been a member and later chairman of the Haryana Public Service Commission during the Congress regime under Bhupinder Singh Hooda.

Asked about his last conversation with Param Bir, Bhadana said: “All the cases registered against him are totally false and politically motivated. Naturally, one has to save himself. The Maharashtra DGP had asked Param Bir to withdraw his letter (levelling corruption allegations against former home minister Anil Desmukh). About 15-20 days after that, they started registering the cases against him.”

In his declaration, Singh had also listed a flat in Juhu, and another in Navi Mumbai jointly owned with his wife Savita Singh, apart from a plot and agricultural land in Faridabad.

Singh’s official accommodation is a three-bedroom flat on the 15th floor of the IPS officers’ complex in Malabar Hills. At the entrance of the building, a constable said there was no one in the flat, and that the domestic help had also stopped coming. A group of constables nearby said they had last seen Param Bir “in April-May”.

In Navi Mumbai, Param Bir’s residential property is a third-floor flat in Shagufa, which is a housing society of IAS and IPS officers in Nerul. Param Bir’s flat is now in the possession of a private company that runs service apartments. The security and housekeeping staff said they had never seen him in the building.

At the Juhu flat, the building manager said: “Param Bir Singh does not live here. He has given the flat on rent for the past several years. He has not come here for the past two years. No enforcement agency has so far contacted us. There is no notice put up outside his residence. The tenants continue to stay here. We have no idea about his whereabouts.”

Officials had earlier said that Param Bir’s leave had been extended on health grounds.

Apart from the Thane FIR, Mumbai Police’s CID has been looking for Param Bir to execute a bailable warrant issued by the KU Chandiwal commission that is investigating allegations of corruption levelled by him against NCP leader Deshmukh.

Five FIRs had been registered against Param Bir in Maharashtra while the state’s Anti-Corruption Bureau is conducting two “open enquiries” against him.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), too, had issued summons to Param Bir for its probe into the bomb scare outside Mukesh Ambani’s house earlier this year but could not reach him.

Param Bir was shunted out as Police Commissioner after he wrote a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in March with several allegations against Deshmukh. He alleged that Deshmukh had asked Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Waze to collect Rs 100 crore every month, including Rs 40-50 crore from around 1,750 bars and restaurants in Mumbai. Singh had sent the letter after Waze was arrested by NIA in the bomb scare case.

On Wednesday, Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, representing Param Bir, told the Bombay High Court that the state has not declared him as an “absconder” yet and hence should continue the assurance provided in the statement till further hearing. He said Singh was summoned twice in the atrocities case and had responded.

The Thane FIR includes 27 sections, including those under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, and was lodged on a complaint filed by Police Inspector Bhimrao Ghadge alleging that Param Bir had coerced him into dropping the names of a few persons from an FIR in 2015 — and that FIRs were registered against Ghadge when he did not accept the order.

During the previous hearing, the state government had told the High Court that its statement submitted on May 24 on no coercive action against Param Bir would continue till October 21. The bench will continue the hearing on Thursday.

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