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Wednesday, December 08, 2021

Param Bir Singh says ‘not absconding, in India’; SC grants him protection from arrest

Param Bir Singh “does not want to abscond and does not want to run anywhere” but faces a threat to his life, his lawyer told the Supreme Court.

Written by Ananthakrishnan G | New Delhi |
Updated: November 23, 2021 8:00:14 am
Former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh. (File Photo)

The Supreme Court on Monday gave former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh protection from arrest in connection with inquiries initiated against him by the Maharashtra government, with his counsel informing the court that “he is very much in India but apprehends actions being taken by the state of Maharashtra”.

Issuing notice on a plea by Singh against the September 16 Bombay High Court judgment dismissing his petition challenging the two preliminary inquiries initiated by the state government, a bench of Justices S K Kaul and M M Sundresh said it found the developments “very disturbing” and things were becoming “curiouser and curiouser in the battle between the then Home Minister and the then Police Commissioner”.

“Let notice issue to the respondents returnable on 06.12.2021. In the meantime, the petitioner shall join the investigation but shall not be arrested”, the bench ordered.

On the previous date of hearing, the bench had told Singh’s counsel that it will not hear him unless it knows his whereabouts.

On Monday, Senior Advocate Puneet Bali, appearing for Singh, informed the bench that “the petitioner is very much in India but apprehends actions being taken by the State of Maharashtra”. He also pointed out that the prayer in the petition was to direct the CBI to inquire and investigate criminal conspiracy charges.

Bali pointed out that the SC had dismissed Desmukh’s plea seeking quashing of the cases registered by CBI over corruption allegations levelled by Singh against him and that “therefore, it is the CBI which should investigate into the complete affairs and not the State police in whom he does not appear to have faith now, despite having headed the same…”

To buttress this, the counsel also referred the court to Singh’s April 19, 2021 letter to the CBI Director, where his conversation with Sanjay Pandey, Commissioner of Police was recorded when he had gone to meet him as a matter of courtesy to formally hand over charge.

“He has set out the transcript of the Whatsapp messages exchanged in pursuance to what had transpired. The sum and substance of the discussion was that the matter was broached by the Commissioner who advised him not to fight against the system and in effect withdraw the letter sent to the Chief Minister making complaints against the home minister, as otherwise the consequences could be varied. We would not like to delve more into this issue,” the bench said in its order.

Making its concerns clear, the court said in its order, “We do find the picture very disturbing. An earlier Commissioner seems to show lack of faith in the police! We wonder what would happen to the common man and what kind of faith would they have in the police. The matter has become curiouser and curiouser in the battle between the then Home Minister and the then Police Commissioner.”

Bali contended that the HC had dismissed the petition at a preliminary stage on the ground that Singh must approach the Central Administrative Tribunal as the issue raised is of the service of the petitioner with the State Government.

On this the SC said “prima facie, this (sending it to CAT) may not be the appropriate course of action”.

It added, “The only question which has to be examined is whether in view of the CBI looking into the matter, the other aspects arising are also to be entrusted to the CBI. The stand of the CBI and the State Government are also not known as the Writ Petition stands decided on a threshold point of sending it to the Central Administrative Tribunal. Prima facie, this may not be the appropriate
course of action”.

Last week, a Mumbai court had allowed a plea by the Mumbai police to declare Singh and two others proclaimed offenders. Singh was removed from the post of Mumbai Police chief in March and transferred as Director General (Home Guards), where he has not reported since May 4 after initially going on sick leave.

Mumbai Police had moved the court in connection with a case registered on the basis of a complaint by hotelier Bimal Agarwal levelling extortion charges against Singh and dismissed Mumbai cop Sachin Waze.

The police said that the trio continued to remain missing despite having issued multiple non-bailable warrants.

In October, the Maharashtra government had told the Bombay High Court that Param Bir Singh, who went on leave from his post of DG Home Guards citing ill health in May, could not be traced.

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