The Bombay High Court on Wednesday, 31 March, while hearing the petition of former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh against the alleged malpractices by Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, asked why the police or the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) were not approached by Singh before bringing the matter to the courts.
Contemplating whether Singh’s plea against Deshmukh is “maintainable”, the court said that it will address the matter on two aspects – is the PIL maintainable and can the court direct investigation without an FIR.
The court reserved the order in the matter.
Singh has 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 has also demanded a CBI probe into the alleged corrupt malpractices by Deshmukh.
Singh had filed the petition in the HC after the Supreme Court on 22 March rejected his petition and asked him to approach the Bombay High Court regarding the same.
What the Court Said
The court stressed on the fact that it would not be right to order an investigation without even an FIR being filed in the matter, LiveLaw reported.
“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 said, as quoted by LiveLaw.
“It is only in very, very rare cases the court can order an FIR. Please don't convert the HC into a magistrate’s court to order an FIR under Section 156(3). Approach the magistrate,” he further said.
“You are a police commissioner, why should the law be set aside for you? Are police officers, ministers and politicians all above the law? Don't view yourself so high, the law is above you,” Datta said, as quoted by LiveLaw.
Questioning the strength of the extortion allegations against Deshmukh, the court said that there is not even an affidavit annexed by either of the officers named by Singh to corroborate his claims.
Singh in his petition had claimed that Deshmukh held meetings in February 2021 with junior police officers, including former API Sachin Vaze and ACP Sanjay Patil, and instructed them to accumulate Rs 100 crore every month.
The court added that there wasn’t an affidavit from Patil annexed in Singh’s plea.
What Singh’s Counsel Argued
Senior Advocate Vikram Nankani appearing for Singh said that the allegations were coming from one of the seniormost officers of the force and that they were flagged to the Chief Minister and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar.
As quoted by LiveLaw, Nankani demanded that the investigation into the allegations should be transferred out of the state for an “independent and fair probe”.
Nankani further suggested that “a letter can be converted into a petition”, and it was in the high court’s power to do so.
What Maha Govt Argued
Calling the plea “unnecessary", AG Ashutosh Kumbhakoni appearing for the state said that the plea itself was not maintainable and was affecting the morale of the force, LiveLaw reported.
Calling him a “disgruntled litigant", Kumbhakoni said that “the entire allegation of the extortion racket is clearly hearsay.”
Kumbhakoni further said that Singh had filed the petition out of “personal vendetta” against Deshmukh and has concealed “animosity” between them.
Singh’s Allegations in the Petition
- Singh, in the petition, 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 the senior leaders, including Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray
- Singh claimed that Deshmukh held meetings in February 2021 at his residence with junior police officers, including Sachin Vaze, by allegedly bypassing their seniors and instructed them to accumulate Rs 100 crore every month from bars, pubs, and other sources.
- Singh claimed that he was time and again pressurised by Deshmukh to probe the role of certain leaders of the BJP and somehow implicate them in the suicide of MP Mohan Delkar in Mumbai and give the entire episode 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.
(With inputs from LiveLaw.)