HC orders PE by CBI into graft charges levelled by Mumbai ex-CP Param Bir
The much-discussed “letter bomb” dropped by Mumbai’s former Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh on the MVA Government claimed the targeted scalp on Monday as Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh resigned from his post on “moral grounds” within hours of the Bombay High Court ordering a “Preliminary Enquiry” (PE) by the CBI into the serious charges of corruption made against him by Singh.
In a day of swift developments, a HC Division Bench ordered a PE by the CBI on the ground that “there can be no fair, impartial, unbiased and untainted probe, if the same were entrusted to the State police force”.
This prompted Deshmukh to put in his papers. He said that in the wake of the High Court’s order, “it is not morally prudent on my part to continue in the post”.
Given that the ruling NCP will keep the post vacated by Deshmukh, Maharashtra Minister and NCP chief Sharad Pawar’s confidant Dilip Walse-Patil emerged as the frontrunner to replace the outgoing State Home Minister.
“The police department is under his (Deshmukh’s) control and direction. 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,” said a HC Bench comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni.
The HC Bench said that although it did not see an immediate reason to direct registration of an FIR by the CBI based on one of the petitioners Jaishri L Patil’s complaint, “interest of justice, in our opinion, would be sufficiently served if the Director, CBI is directed to initiate a preliminary enquiry into the complaint of Dr Patil which has the letter of Param Bir addressed to the Chief Minister, as an annexure”.
Alluding to a Press release issued by Deshmukh suggesting that he is not averse to facing any enquiry, the HC Bench said, “Such preliminary enquiry shall be conducted in accordance with law and concluded as early as possible but preferably within 15 (fifteen) days from receipt of a copy of this order”.
“Once the preliminary enquiry is complete, the Director, CBI shall be at liberty to decide on the future course of action, also in accordance with law. Should the Director, CBI, see no reason to proceed further, Dr Patil shall be duly informed of the same,” the Judges observed.
“It is needless to observe that the preliminary enquiry and further action, if at all required, would proceed uninfluenced by the fact that this court has ordered such an action,” the HC Bench added.
In its reasoning for taking cognisance of the allegations of corruption against the State Home Minister the HC Bench observed, “Prima facie, the issues are such that the very faith of citizens in the 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 the citizens’ confidence in the police machinery in the State”.
“Such allegations, therefore, cannot remain unattended and are required to be looked into in the manner known to law when, prima facie, they indicate commission of a cognisable offence,” the HC bench added.
Shortly after the HC passed its order, Deshmukh submitted his resignation to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
“On a plea by Advocate Jayshree Patil, the High Court ordered a Preliminary Inquiry by the CBI. That being the case, it would not be morally prudent on my part to continue as Home Minister. Hence I have voluntarily decided to quit the post. Please relieve me from my post,” he said in his resignation letter.
Reacting to the resignation by Deshmukh, former Chief Minister and Leader of the Opposition in the State Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP said: “It was expected that Deshmukh would put in his papers after the High Court’s orders. Why has there so much delay in the Home Minister putting in his papers? He should have resigned immediately after the former Police Commissioner made allegations of corruption against him and report on the alleged corruption in the transfers and postings of senior police officers submitted by former State Intelligence Commissioner Rashmi Shukla”.
Three days after he was shunted and posted in a relatively insignificant post as the Commandant General of Home Guards, in an eight-page sensational letter written to the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on March 20 Singh alleged that State Home Minister Deshmukh had asked now arrested and suspended police officer Sachin Vaze last month to “collect” a staggering Rs 100 crore per month from bars, restaurants and other sources.
On his part, State Home Minister Deshmukh - in a tweet put in the evening -- debunked Singh’s charge and said: “The former Commissioner of Police, Parambir Singh has made false allegations in order to save himself as the involvement of Sachin Waze in Mukesh Ambani & Mansukh Hiren’s case is becoming clearer from the investigation carried out so far & threads are leading to Singh as well”.
On March 25, after the Supreme Court refused to entertain his similar plea, Param Bir Singh moved the Bombay High Court, seeking a CBI investigation into the alleged corruption charges against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
On March 30, the Maharashtra Government appointed retired judge of the Bombay High Court Kailash Uttamchand Chandiwal to probe the former CP’s charges against Deshmukh.