The Bombay High Court on Monday, 5 April, directed a preliminary inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into the allegations by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
The court ordered for the investigation to be completed within 15 days, following which the CBI is to decide on the further course of action.
The court on 31 March had heard three other petitions other than Singh’s regarding the matter – a writ petition by Advocate Jaishri Patil and criminal PILs by advocate Ghanshyam Upadhyay and Chartered Accountant Mohan Bhide.
However, the CBI need not register an FIR immediately or take up Patil’s complaint before it conducts an independent enquiry.
Singh accused Deshmukh of corruption, meddling in the police force’s functioning and manipulating transfers and postings in the state among other charges. Singh had demanded for a CBI probe into his allegations.
The court has categorically pointed out that for ensuring an independent enquiry, CBI needs to be called as the local police comes under the direct control of Deshmukh, as he’s the state’s home minister.
CBI PRELIMINARY INQUIRY – WHAT IT ENTAILS
When a complaint or information received by the CBI pertains to a case where there is enough evidence to suggest misconduct by a public servant, but not adequate enough to lodge an FIR under section 154 of the Criminal Procedure Code, CBI initiates a preliminary inquiry.
If the preliminary enquiry reveals the commission of a cognizable offence that falls within the mandate of the CBI, the agency can then register an FIR and go ahead with the investigation.
CBI cannot initiate preliminary enquiry without the consent of the competent authorities. Consent and orders from the head office are also required in cases where the order to investigate a case has come from the high court or the Supreme Court.
WHAT THE COURT HAD SAID WHILE HEARING THE CASE
The Bombay High Court, while hearing the case on 31 March, had asked why the police or the CBI were not approached by Singh before bringing the matter to the courts.
The court had addressed the matter on two aspects – if the PIL was maintainable and if the court could direct an investigation without an FIR.
The court had stressed on the fact that it would not be right for it to order an investigation without even an FIR being filed in the matter
“You are failing in your duty if you don’t file an FIR when you know an offence has been committed. Simply writing letters to the CM won’t do. We can pull you up for that,” Chief Justice Dipankar Datta had reportedly said.
The court had also questioned the strength of the extortion allegations against Deshmukh, saying that there is not even an affidavit annexed by either of the officers named by Singh to corroborate his claims.
While Singh’s counsel Vikram Nankani had called the matter serious and argued that it was well within the powers of the court to order a probe without an FIR, Advocate General (AG) Ashutosh Kumbhakoni had argued that Singh filed the plea only because of his “animosity” with Deshmukh and personal vendetta.
WHY HAS SINGH DRAGGED DESHMUKH TO COURT
Allegations of corruption and extortion were made by Singh while he challenged his transfer to the Home Guard Department by the Maharashtra government, in the backdrop of the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case and his alleged proximity with former API Sachin Vaze, who was arrested in the case.
Singh had filed the petition in the Bombay HC after the SC on 22 March rejected his petition and asked him to approach the HC regarding the same.
Here are some key allegations made by Singh:
- Singh has alleged that he was transferred on 17 March to the Home Guard Department after he brought the alleged corrupt practices of Deshmukh in the knowledge of senior leaders, including Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray
- Singh claimed that Deshmukh held meetings in February 2021 with junior police officers, including Vaze and instructed them to accumulate Rs 100 crore every month
- Singh claimed that he was pressurised by Deshmukh to allegedly implicate certain BJP leaders in the suicide of MP Mohan Delkar in Mumbai and give it a political angle
- Singh in the petition alleged that one Rashmi Shukla, the Commissioner Intelligence, in August 2020 had brought to the notice of the Director-General of Police the alleged corrupt malpractices in postings and transfers by Deshmukh based on telephonic interceptions
- Singh accused Deshmukh of interfering in various investigations and instructing the police officers to conduct probes in a particular manner as desired by him.