Bench upholds Bombay High Court order.
The Supreme Court on Thursday delivered a blow to the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in Maharashtra and former State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh by refusing their pleas to quash a CBI probe into allegations of corruption levelled by transferred Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh against Mr. Deshmukh in a letter.
A Bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta upheld the Bombay High Court order for a CBI probe, saying the dramatis personae involved — Mr. Deshmukh and Mr. Singh — and the “seriousness of the allegations” required investigation by an independent agency. “It is a matter of public confidence,” Justice Kaul observed.
Both the Maharashtra government and Mr. Deshmukh had appealed to the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court order for a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the contents of Mr. Singh’s allegations against Mr. Deshmukh.
“Allegations are extremely serious and things have got curiouser and curiouser,” Justice Kaul said.
“You see, both were heading their respective institutions when things went wrong between them… One was a Home Minister and the other one of the seniormost police officers. This is not an everyday issue … These are two persons who closely worked with each other until they fell apart. So, an independent agency should enquire. The High Court is right,” he told Maharashtra counsel, senior advocate A.M. Singhvi.
Mr. Singhvi argued that Mr. Deshmukh had resigned within hours of the High Court order. The basis of the High Court order for a CBI probe was no longer there.
“But he was the Home Minister when the High Court passed the order. It was after that, he resigned. He was clinging to his office,” Justice Gupta reacted.
“But should I [Mr. Deshmukh] not have been heard first before the High Court passed the order for CBI probe?” senior advocate Kapil Sibal, for Mr. Deshmukh, asked.
“Why should a suspect be heard before registration of an FIR?” Justice Gupta responded.
Mr. Sibal replied that the allegations in the letter were hearsay and not admissible as evidence. “The letter says [Sachin] Vaze told somebody, who told Bhujbal, who told someone who told me… He [Mr. Singh] had no personal knowledge about the allegations he made in the letter … How can a CBI enquiry be ordered on the basis of baseless allegations?” Mr. Sibal asked.
Mr. Sibal said Mr. Singh was “collecting evidence” on March 16, knowing that he would be transferred out soon.
“Mr. Sibal, that is why the court has ordered a preliminary enquiry, to find out whether there is evidence at all. This is a serious matter concerning a Home Minister and a senior police officer,” Justice Kaul replied.
The senior lawyer said he fervently hoped the court would not uphold an order for CBI probe without hearing the affected party.
“We hope no DGP will have to make allegations against his Home Minister in future,” Justice Gupta reacted.
Mr. Singh had alleged that Mr. Deshmukh held meetings with “officers of lower rank” like Sachin Vaze, now in custody in connection with the Mukesh Ambani residence bomb scare case, and Sanjay Patil, an Assistant Commissioner of Police with the Social Service Branch, at his residence in February. This was done “bypassing their seniors.” The Home Minister had “instructed” the duo to “accumulate ₹100 crore every month,” Mr. Singh has alleged.
The former top police official had alleged that the Minister, besides using police officers for his “malicious intent of extorting money,” interfered with investigations, ordering them to be conducted in a “particular manner.” He had also indulged in corrupt practices in official postings and transfers of officers, Mr. Singh has alleged.