Mumbai: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday told the Bombay High Court that the Maharashtra government was “not cooperating” with the agency in its probe against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh, who is facing allegations of corruption and misconduct. Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who appeared for the CBI, told the HC that while the probe, initiated following a previous order of the high court, was a chance to “clean up the entire state administration,” the Maharashtra government was refusing to cooperate with the central agency.
Mehta denied the accusations made by the state government that the CBI was going beyond the high court’s order by including issues of the reinstatement of former assistant police inspector Sachin Waze, and Deshmukh’s undue interference in the transfers and postings of Mumbai police officers. He denied the allegation made by state’s counsel, senior advocate Rafiq Dada, that the CBI was using the Deshmukh probe to gain backdoor entry into investigation against IPS officer Rashmi Shukla in a case of illegal phone tapping and alleged leaking of sensitive documents related to police postings.
The Solicitor General made the submissions before a bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar that was hearing a plea filed by the Maharashtra government seeking to expunge two paragraphs from the FIR registered by the CBI against Deshmukh earlier this year. The CBI is probing a case of alleged corruption and misconduct on part of Deshmukh in the aftermath of allegations made against him by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. The probe was initiated after a high court bench, led by Chief Justice Dipankar Datta, in April directed the CBI to initiate a preliminary inquiry against Deshmukh based on a criminal complaint lodged at a Mumbai police station by lawyer Jaishri Patil. Deshmukh had resigned from the state cabinet after the HC order.
Patil had filed a PIL in the HC seeking action on the complaint registered by her. She had referred to the allegations made by Singh against Deshmukh in her plea, and had also attached a copy of a letter written by Singh to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray in which he had made the allegations against Deshmukh.
Mehta, therefore, told the HC that since Singh’s letter was a part of Patil’s complaint on which the CBI’s probe was based, and since the letter spoke of Waze’s reinstatement and Deshmukh’s interference in transfers and postings, the CBI was well within the ambit of the High Court’s order in delving into these issues (which state government wants deleted from FIR).
“The issues of Waze’s reinstatement and the transfers and postings are linked intrinsically to the allegations of corruption against Anil Deshmukh,” Mehta said. “If there existed a racket of illegal postings and transfers, then the CBI is supposed to look into it. How can the state government then say that delete these portions from the FIR?” he asked. Mehta said Waze, now dismissed from service, faced allegations of having been a part of some extrajudicial court in the past. He said that Waze was merely an assistant inspector of police and yet he seemed to have direct access to the then state home minister (Deshmukh). These were issues that would seem abnormal even to a layman, and therefore, the CBI was looking into the same, Mehta said.
“Waze, an API, had direct access to the home minister’s residence. He had a shady past and yet was reinstated into the force (in 2020) after 15 years when a certain state home minister was in charge,” Mehta said. At this, the court asked if the CBI was also inquiring against the three-member committee that had approved Waze’s reinstatement? Mehta said while it wished to do so, the Maharashtra government was not giving the CBI the papers related to Waze’s reinstatement.
“The problem is that we do not have the requisite papers. Everything is open to investigation, including Param Bir Singh. It is not my case that my investigation is restricted to Deshmukh,” Mehta said. “What I am submitting is this. We require some documents that they (Maharashtra government) are not giving us. They (state government) are not cooperating despite the direction of a division bench of this court,” he said.
Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, who also appeared for the CBI, too, questioned how the state government could seek those two paragraphs (related to Waze’s reinstatement and Deshmukh’s interference in transfers and postings) of the central agency’s FIR be deleted? “Any sort of hindrance caused in carrying out a fair and impartial investigation would defeat the very purpose, object and intent of the High Court’s order,” Singh said.
The state’s counsel, advocate Dada, however, said the HC could not presume that the court order, directing a preliminary inquiry, also required the state government to handover the papers sought by the CBI. The HC will continue hearing the matter on Wednesday. The CBI extended its previous statement on not asking for the papers related to Rashmi Shukla’s case, and on not taking any coercive action against Deshmukh till the next hearing. Deshmukh has also filed a plea in the HC seeking that the FIR registered by the CBI against him be quashed. The HC will hear the NCP leader’s plea after completing the hearing on the state’s plea.
(With inputs from PTI)