UPDATED: March 31, 2021 17:30 IST
The Bombay High Court on Wednesday pulled up former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh and asked him why did he not lodge a police complaint against Maharashtra minister Anil Deshmukh, against whom he has levelled severe charges of corruption and extortion.
A division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice GS Kulkarni asked Param Bir Singh why he did not lodge a complaint with the police first saying he is not “a layman” and added that without an FIR there is no scope of the court to intervene or ask a probe agency to investigate.
“You (Singh) are a senior police officer. You are not a layman. You were duty-bound to register a complaint against any wrongdoing. Despite knowing that an offence is being committed by your boss, you (Singh) remained silent,” Chief Justice Datta said.
In an explosive letter to CM Uddhav Thackeray, Param Bir Singh had recently said that Anil Deshmukh asked arrested police officer Sachin Vaze to collect Rs 100 crore from bars and restaurants. Deshmukh has vehemently denied the allegations while the government has ordered a probe against him.
The Bombay HC was hearing criminal public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Param Bir Singh, seeking a CBI probe against Anil Deshmukh. The bench also said that Param Bir Singh cannot convert the HC into a magistrate court.
“The proper and appropriate course of action would be for you (Singh) to first lodge a complaint with police. If the police do not lodge an FIR, then you have the option of filing an application before the magistrate,” the court said. Param Bir Singh’s counsel Vikram Nankani argued that his client wanted to avoid this “chakravyuh” (labyrinth).
To this, the court said that this was the procedure laid down in law. “Are you saying that you are above the law,” asked Chief Justice Datta.
Nankani argued that he did not have any other option than to approach Bombay HC as the complaint and allegations were against the “very head of the state administration”.
The court further asked Nankani if any statement, as alleged by Param Bir Singh in the petition against Deshmukh that he had asked police officers to extort money, was made by the Home Minister in Singh’s presence.
“Was any of these statements made by the Home Minister in Singh’s presence? Otherwise, this is nothing but hearsay,” the court said.
The HC further said there is also no affidavit submitted by any of the police officers who were allegedly called by Deshmukh to his residence, supporting the allegations levelled by Singh.
The bench said without an FIR it cannot pass an order directing an independent agency to investigate the matter.
“Our prima facie opinion is that without an FIR, this court cannot order an investigation. Your prayer seeking a direction to the CBI to investigate appears to be harsh in the absence of an FIR,” Chief Justice Datta said.
The court further asked if a PIL is maintainable when the issue pertains to a service matter.
Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, appearing for the Maharashtra government, sought dismissal of the petition with an exemplary cost and claimed the plea was filed with a personal vendetta.
“The PIL is not filed in the public interest but is riddled with personal grievances and interests. The petitioner has come to this court with dirty hands and dirty mind,” Kumbhakoni said.
Singh in his petition claimed Deshmukh had asked police officers, including suspended assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze, to collect Rs 100 crore each month from bars and restaurants.
Sachin Vaze was arrested earlier this month by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the case of a bomb scare near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence in Mumbai.
The PIL filed by Singh also raised the issue of alleged corruption in police transfers and postings in the state.
Singh was shifted from the post of Mumbai’s Commissioner of Police to the Home Guards department on March 17.