April 7, 2021 4:30:59 am
ON A day that the Maharashtra government and its former home minister, Anil Deshmukh, moved the Supreme Court separately, challenging the Bombay High Court’s direction to the CBI to probe the allegations levelled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh, the CBI on Tuesday formally initiated a preliminary enquiry.
Deshmukh resigned as Home Minister on Monday, hours after the Bombay High Court directed the CBI to probe the allegations against him.
Calling the case “unprecedented,” the High Court had 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 state government, in its petition, said the pleas seeking an independent probe into the allegations against Deshmukh were heard to consider their maintainability, and the High Court should not have passed a final order. It said that no facts were placed before the court, so ordering a CBI probe was not justified.
Seeking the Supreme Court’s intervention, the state government said there are several apex court judgments stating that the High Court has no jurisdiction to pass such an order.
Deshmukh, in his plea filed by counsel Sudhanshu S Choudhari, said the High Court had conducted an “ex-parte procedure”. “In the annals of judicial history, there has hardly been an occasion when the court has made allegations against a sitting minister at face value and proceeded to direct an outside agency, without calling for a response from the minister, to conduct a preliminary enquiry,” he said.
The NCP leader said the allegations against him “were made after the erstwhile Commissioner of Police was transferred, and evidence sought to be created with intent”. “These aspects required to be looked into before the Court took the extreme step of directing a preliminary enquiry by the CBI,” he said.
Deshmukh said the state agencies were not given the required time to conduct a preliminary probe, “thereby showing utter lack of confidence in the state machinery, as if every investigating officer lacked the confidence of the court in conducting a fair and impartial inquiry”.
He said the High Court, “as it had done in the past, it it had so chosen, could have directed an inquiry/ investigation at the instance of officers chosen by the court, for a fair and impartial outcome, instead of handing it over to an agency under the control of the central government”.
Stating that the state government had withdrawn consent to the CBI to investigate cases in Maharashtra, he said “the court… ought to have taken such withdrawal of consent into account, before issuing directions in the manner that it has”.
He said handing over the probe to the CBI in such a situation also “impacts the federal structure, and has the potential of biased investigation which may not serve the cause of justice”.
Referring to Singh’s allegations against him, he said the former Mumbai Police Commissioner had “referred to conversations by others, which is pure hearsay, not produced any substantive evidence before court, that can in law be relied upon”.
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 Uddhav 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 security 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 High Court’s 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.
On Tuesday, Patil filed a caveat in the Supreme Court, seeking to be heard before any order is passed in the matter.
In its 52-page ruling the High 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,” it said.
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