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'I'm A Whistle Blower Highlighting Corruption' : Param Bir Singh Moves Bombay High Court Against Maharashtra Govt Enquiries

Sharmeen Hakim
29 April 2021 3:59 PM GMT
Im A Whistle Blower Highlighting Corruption : Param Bir Singh Moves Bombay High Court Against Maharashtra Govt Enquiries
Calling himself a whistle-blower "who has tried to highlight corruption in the highest public office" and seeking protection at par with a whistle-blower, former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh has approached the Bombay High Court again. The petition filed by Singh challenges two preliminary enquiries initiated against him by the Maharashtra government.

"The Law Commission, in its 179th Report, has proposed that there should be safeguards against victimisation of any whistle-blower by initiating any proceedings against them on the ground of making disclosures. It is submitted that the petitioner herein is seeking the same protection against victimisation by Respondent No. 1 (State Home Department), since the inquiries have been initiated against the petitioner with clear malafides," the petition reads.

According to the petition, the orders dates April 1 and April 20, 2021, issued by the State Home Ministry are to target and harass him and such actions by the State can act as a deterrent for public servants to "make disclosures of corruption and other illegal activities of the high functionaries of the State machinery."

The petition calls these enquiries a violation of the Constitution of India's Article 14 (equality before law), Article 19 (1)(a) (right to freedom of speech and expression) and Article 21 (right to live with dignity) of the petitioner, Param Bir Singh.

The petition also claims that during his meeting with state Director General of Police (DGP) Sanjay Pande on April 19, Pande "advised him" to withdraw his letter against former State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, which Singh had sent to the state government.

On Wednesday, Mumbai police registered an FIR against Singh and several other officers.

Singh, who was shifted from the post of Mumbai Police Commissioner to the Home Guards department on March 17 this year, had written a letter to the government alleging corruption and misuse of official position by Deshmukh.

The letter from March 20 alleged that Deshmukh met with subordinate police officers, including suspended Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Waze, in February and asked for collection of Rs 100 crore per month.

After hearing a clutch of PILs, including one by Singh, the Bombay High Court had, on April 5 issued directions for the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct a preliminary enquiry into the allegations levelled by in Singh's letter.

Deshmukh resigned as State's Home Minister pursuant to these directions. The HC directions, which were issued primarily on an advocate's PIL, said the CBI was at liberty to take further action based on the preliminary enquiry findings. The CBI registered a case against Deshmukh and unknown others on April 22.

Singh fresh petition says that the order of April 1 issued by the Maharashtra government directing Maharashtra DGP Sanjay Pandey to initiate preliminary inquiry against the petitioner by invoking Section 32 of Cr.P.C. in alleged suspicion of violation of service matter under All India Service (Conduct) Rules, 1968, is ex-facie, illegal, outside the frame of law and therefore, cannot be sustained in light of the settled principles of law.

The petition also says the orders passed by the state government initiating preliminary enquiry were aimed at thwarting the investigation of the CBI.

Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Singh, mentioned the petition for an urgent hearing before a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale on Thursday. The bench directed the state government to respond to the allegations levelled in the plea and kept it for further hearing on May 4.

The first order (April 1) was passed by the erstwhile home minister Anil Deshmukh for alleged violation of some All India Services (Conduct Rules) and the second order of April 20 was passed by the present home minister (Dilip Walse Patil) over allegations of corruption levelled against Singh," Rohatgi said.

He said on April 19, Singh had a meeting with Pandey during which the DGP allegedly advised Singh to withdraw his letter sent to the Maharashtra government in March, in which he had alleged corruption and misuse of official position by Deshmukh.

"Pande told Singh in the meeting that he cannot fight the system like this and that the government was now considering to initiate multiple criminal cases against him (Singh). Pande advised Singh to withdraw the letter he sent to the government," Rohatgi said.

Pande told Singh that if the latter withdrew his letter, the CBI's case against Deshmukh will not stand, Rohatgi said, alleging that the state government was creating fictitious complaints against Singh.

He also said Singh had recorded his conversation with Pande and has sent a copy of the same to the CBI.

Rohatgi said the orders passed by the government initiating preliminary enquiry against Singh were "manifestly arbitrary, wholly illegal, null and void."

Public prosecutor Deepak Thakare sought time to respond to the allegations.

Rohatgi then said time could be given to the government, but an interim protection should be given to Singh and the enquiries should be stayed until then.

The court then asked if any show cause notice was issued to Singh with regard to any of the enquiry.

Rohatgi replied in the negative.

"If no show cause notice has been issued to Singh till date, then what is the urgency...what is the tearing need for us to pass any interim orders?" the court asked.

"It is an enquiry for violation of some service rules. At the most, it is a service matter. Let the government respond to the allegations levelled in the petition," the bench said.

"The impugned orders are aimed at silencing the petitioner (Singh) and to compel and pressurise him to withdraw his allegations against Deshmukh," the petition said.

Rohatgi pointed out to the court a case registered against Singh on Wednesday in Akola district and said he was challenging that also.

The Akola police filed an FIR against Singh after a police inspector levelled corruption charges against him.

The bench said Singh would have to challenge the Akola case before the HC's Nagpur bench, as it has the jurisdiction to hear matters arising out of Akola district.

Singh in his petition has sought a direction to the CBI to conduct an unbiased, uninfluenced, impartial and fair investigation against Deshmukh.

He has also sought an order directing the Maharashtra government to ensure that transfer/posting of police officials are not done for any pecuniary benefits to any politician.

It also sought a direction to the CBI or any other independent agency to forthwith take custody of the CCTV footage of Deshmukh's residence to prevent its "destruction."

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