NEW DELHI: In a setback to Maharashtra government and its former home minister Anil Deshmukh, the Supreme Court Thursday dismissed their pleas challenging the Bombay High Court order directing a CBI probe into allegations of corruption and misconduct levelled against him by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Looking at the personas involved and nature of allegations and seriousness of allegations, it requires investigation by an independent agency.
It is a matter of public confidence, a bench comprising Justices S K Kaul and Hemant Gupta said.
We don’t want to interfere with the orders of high court directing preliminary inquiry by CBI, the bench said.
It is only preliminary enquiry and nothing is wrong in it when serious allegations are made by senior officer against a senior minister, the bench said when counsel for Deshmukh alleged that oral allegations were made without any substance and CBI probe was ordered without hearing him.
The bench said that two persons involved in the case were the police commissioner and the home minister and they were working together till they fall apart.
Senior advocate A M Singhvi, appearing for Maharashtra, said that it was aggrieved by CBI probe as the consent for it was withdrawn by the state earlier.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Deshmukh, argued that court has to stay on guard when allegations are made and probe is sought against a constitutional machinery.
He said there should be some material for levelling allegations.
After the high court order on April 5, Deshmukh, a veteran politician and NCP leader from Vidarbha, had resigned from the state government.
In its plea filed in the apex court, the 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.
In his appeal, Deshmukh had said that 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 had 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.
He had 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 had said.
Deshmukh had also 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.
Dealing with Param Bir Singh’s allegations, Deshmukh had 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.
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.
In its 52-page judgement, the high court had 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 had 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.