Supreme Court upholds CBI probe against Anil Deshmukh

“These are serious allegations that need an inquiry by an independent agency,” the Supreme Court said.
Former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh
Former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh
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The Maharashtra government and its former home minister Anil Deshmukh had challenged the Bombay High Court order directing a CBI probe into the allegations of corruption and misconduct levelled against him by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta said that the nature of allegations is serious and it needs a probe by an independent agency. “It is a matter of public confidence. We are not inclined to entertain this,” the bench said. 

In its plea filed in the top court, Maharashtra government had questioned the procedure adopted by high court saying the state was heard on question of maintainability of the pleas seeking CBI investigation against Deshmukh on allegation of corruption, and the order too was reserved on that issue, but the court finally ended up directing the probe. 

Param Bir Singh, in his plea filed on March 25, had sought a CBI probe against Deshmukh who, he claimed, had asked police officers, including suspended cop Sachin Waze, to extort Rs 100 crore from bars and restaurants. Deshmukh has denied any wrongdoing. Bombay-based lawyer Jayshree Patil, on whose criminal writ petition the high court had ordered the CBI probe, had on Tuesday filed a caveat in the top court seeking to be heard before any order is passed in the matter.

After the high court order on April 5, Deshmukh, a veteran politician from Vidarbha, had resigned from the state government. In his appeal filed in the apex court, Deshmukh has said the high court order raises issues of seminal importance which impact not just the federal structure of the country, impact on our polity, but also the manner in which, and the institutions through which investigations are to be conducted .

He said that without lodging an FIR, the court could have directed that an application be filed before the magistrate for investigation under section 156(3) of the CrPC.

The fact that the court did not direct the petitioners before the court to follow this procedure suggests that the court believed that entire state machinery was untrustworthy; that no investigation could have been made within the state by a state investigating agency, and reposed faith in an outside agency by referring to it as an independent investigating agency' knowing fully well that its credentials in the past are not such that the court can repose absolute faith in such an agency, Deshmukh said in his plea.

He said that in the annals of judicial history, there has hardly been an occasion when the court has taken the statements made 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 inquiry.

That presently, the CBI today is being headed by an interim director, the legality of which is also sub-judice before this court. This also is a factor that should have been taken into account, before the court passed the order that it did , the plea said.

He said the court must have been aware of the fact that the Maharashtra government had withdrawn its consent for the CBI to investigate matters in the territory of the state.

The former minister, who has sought ex-parte stay on the high court order said, that since now he has resigned from the post, the state machinery can freely conduct its investigations, and the apprehensions expressed by the high court contained in the impugned order no longer exist.

Dealing with the allegations levelled by Param Bir Singh, Deshmukh said there is not an iota of substantive evidence that is placed before the court to even prima facie establish that any of the allegations made have an element of truth and is pure hearsay. In its 52-page judgement, the high court said Singh's allegations against Deshmukh had put at stake the citizen's faith in the state police.

Such allegations, made by a serving police officer, against the state home minister could not be left unattended, and were required to be probed into, if prima facie, they made a case of a cognisable offence, the high court said. The high court's verdict came on three PILs including one filed by Singh and a criminal writ petition filed last month, seeking several reliefs as also a CBI probe into the matter.

With PTI inputs

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