The Bombay High Court, on Monday refused to quash the Central Bureau of Investigation's (CBI) corruption FIR against former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar reserved for orders Deshmukh petition seeking quashing of the FIR on July 12, 2021.
CBI had registered the FIR against Deshmukh and unknown otherson April 21, 2021 under Section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and section 120B of the IPC for an attempt to obtain undue advantage for the improper and dishonest performance of public duty.
The FIR was backed by the Bombay HC order, directingthe agency to conduct a Preliminary Enquiry into the Rs. 100 crore corruption allegations against Deshmukh that were levelled by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh in his letter to the Chief Minister on March 20, 2021.
However, Deshmukh's 'knowledge' of now dismissed Assistant Police Inspector, Sachin Waze's reinstatement in June 2020,is also part of CBI's FIR. Waze is in prison in the Ambani Terror Scare – Mansukh Hiran Murder Case.
During the hearings,Justice Shinde repeatedly observed that "if true and practical meaning" is to be given to the High Court's order directing the preliminary enquiry, "everyone's role has to be investigated, not just one…."
The court said CBI must also investigate the committee that reinstated Waze into the police force in 2020, after he was suspended in 2003 due to his alleged involvement in a custodial death case. Ex- Mumbai Police Commissioner - Param Bir Singh - had headed the three-member committee that reinstated Waze.
Thethen "head of administration" cannot be "let off," neither can he plead "innocence" that some executive told him to reinstate Waze, and he was helpless. Because it was his duty to prevent wrongdoings, the court observed.
Deshmukh, through his counsel, senior advocate Amit Desai argued,"We live in a society with the presumption of dishonesty. Therefore an allegation becomes enough."
Desai said that while CBI repeatedly harped on extortion, the FIR against Deshmukhdidn't include any extortion section, and it's only under Section 7 of the PC Act r/w 120B of IPC.
He said there would be a presumption that CBI applied its mind during the enquiry and did not find evidence of extortion, and therefore it's not there in the FIR. He said the CBI has said that Deshmukh 'attempted' to obtain undue advantage, but they have nowhere mentioned particulars of the act.
The CBI was required to take sanction for an enquiry or investigation from the state government under Section 17A of the PC Act, as the High Court's order asked the agency to proceed in accordance with law, but there was no sanction in this case.
Desai further argued that the FIR does not disclose a cognisable offense, as it contains no facts, only unfounded allegations, which is against the principles laid down in Bhajan Lal case.
CBI's Counsel Additional Solicitor General Aman Lekhi argued that there was enough material in the FIR disclosing a cognisable offence. He said the bar under 17A would not apply as the CBI acted pursuant to High Court's orders, and Deshmukh's alleged acts were not part of his official duty.
The CBI's FIR doesn't go beyond the High Court's mandate while directing a Preliminary Enquiry; therefore, the CBI was warranted to investigate the case, he argued.
Lekhi submitted that at the stage of registration of FIR, allegations were enough, further assuring the court that all parties involved would be investigated.
Param Bir Singh's Letter
In an eight-page letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray on March 20, Param Bir Singh accused Deshmukh of holding meetings with subordinate police officers, including dismissed API Sachin Waze, and seeking a collection of Rs 100 crore from the 1750 bars and restaurants in Mumbai. The CBI said he also accused him of other misdeeds.
On April 5, 2021 the Bombay High Court disposed of a clutch of petitions, including a writ petition filed by Advocate Jaishri Patil and a PIL filed by Param Bir Singh in a single order and directed the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry into corruption allegations against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.