Updated: April 8, 2021 7:08:22 am
Capping days of political tension within the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi coalition following allegations of corruption against him by former Police Commissioner of Mumbai Parambir Singh, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh Monday tendered his resignation to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray Monday.
This came hours after the Bombay High Court directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to carry out a “preliminary enquiry” into the allegations against him. Calling the case “unprecedented,” the court asked the CBI to complete the probe “preferably within 15 days”, after which it said the CBI director was at liberty to take “further course of action.’
The HC order comes after Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar held two press conferences last month defending Deshmukh, a member of his party. Deshmukh is the second minister in the MVA government to resign under a cloud — Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Rathod resigned as Forest Minister on February 28 after he was linked to the death of a 22-year-old woman in Pune. State Minister of Labour and Excise Dilip Walse-Patil, a close confidant of Pawar who has served as his personal assistant, is the new Home Minister.
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— ANIL DESHMUKH (@AnilDeshmukhNCP) April 5, 2021
Deshmukh’s resignation may also work to relieve some of the tension in the coalition over his continuing in the Cabinet despite the allegations. The NCP said it recommended to the CM that he should accept the resignation.
Soon after he quit, Deshmukh left for New Delhi where he held consultations with lawyers including Abhishek Manu Singhvi. Deshmukh is expected to file an appeal in the Supreme Court to challenge the HC order.
NCP shy but HC forced its hand
The Shiv Sena and Congress were eager to see Deshmukh go. But the NCP dug its heels in, opting for a probe by a retired judge. The HC’s order clearing a CBI probe forced the NCP’s hand. It also gave the party the justification to get Deshmukh out — and avoid further embarrassment.
Three days after he was removed as Mumbai Police Commissioner, Singh, now posted as DGP, Home Guards, wrote an eight-page letter to Chief Minister Thackeray alleging that Deshmukh asked the now suspended and arrested Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Waze to collect Rs 100 crore every month, including Rs 40-50 crore, from 1,750 bars and restaurants in Mumbai. Waze is being investigated for his alleged role in the Ambani house bomb scare and the murder of businessman Mansukh Hiran.
Singh subsequently filed a PIL seeking a CBI probe against Deshmukh for these alleged malpractices. Two other PILs and a criminal writ petition were also filed on the same matter seeking a probe against both Deshmukh and Parambir Singh.
One of the PILs was by lawyer Ghanshyam Das; another by a chartered accountant and teacher Mohan Prabhakar Bhide. An intervention application was also filed by one Vinod Kumar Dubey, alleging Singh was in “collusion” with the BJP.
While the overall order addressed issues raised in all these petitions, that for a CBI preliminary enquiry was based on the writ petition of lawyer Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil, who demanded an independent probe into the allegations and directions to the Mumbai Police to take cognizance of her complaint of alleged corruption by Deshmukh, Singh and all police officials named in Singh’s letter to the Chief Minister.
Patil, daughter of Dr. Laxmanrao Patil of Goa Mukti Sangram, had earlier opposed the Maratha reservation legislation in the High Court. After losing there, she challenged the High Court order in the Supreme Court.
While ordering a CBI preliminary enquiry, a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish S Kulkarni observed: “Prima facie, the issues are such that the very faith of citizens in functioning of the police department is at stake. If there is any amount of truth in such allegations, certainly it has a direct effect on citizens’ confidence in the police machinery in the State.”
In its 52-page ruling the court said the allegations prima facie indicate “commission of cognizable offence.” And that it cannot remain a “mere spectator” when the credibility of the state machinery was at stake given the “expectations of law” and the nature of the complaints.
“Here, Shri Deshmukh is the Home Minister. The police department is under his control and direction,” the court underlined. “There can be no fair, impartial, unbiased and untainted probe, if the same were entrusted to the State Police Force. As of necessity, the probe has to be entrusted to an independent agency like the CBI. We also agree with petitioner Patil that directions are required for facilitating an unbiased, impartial, fair but effective probe so that the truth is unearthed and the devil, if any, shamed in accordance with procedure established by law.”
Soon after this court order, the NCP top brass went into a huddle with party chief Sharad Pawar who is recuperating at his residence after a surgery. Subsequently, a message was conveyed to Deshmukh to submit his papers. Deshmukh reached Pawar’s residence and was asked by Pawar to hand over his resignation to the Chief Minister.
“The Bombay High Court in their order passed on a petition filed by Jayshri Patil have asked the Central Bureau of Investigation to carry out ‘preliminary inquiry’. In view of this order I feel that it would not be morally right on my part to continue on the post. I have hereby decided to stay away from the post and would request you to relieve me from the post of Home Minister,” Deshmukh said in his resignation letter he handed to Thackeray.
In the MVA government, the NCP has been allocated a maximum of 12 Cabinet berths; followed by the Sena with 11 and Congress eight.
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