Anil Deshmukh Controversy: Legal Angle

By | May 29, 2021

 Who is Anil Deshmukh?

Anil Deshmukh is a Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) veteran who began his political career as a chairman of the Nagpur Zila Parishad. He was the Minister of many portfolios such as state excise, food and drugs, public works, consumer protection, school, and higher education, cultural affairs, etc. in the Maharashtra Government.

Why is he under the Limelight?

In 2019, he became the Home Minister in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government, an alliance between Shiv Sena, NCP, and the Congress with Uddhav Thackeray as the Chief Minister. Lately, he resigned from his post after facing serious allegations of corruption and practice of misconduct by the former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, wherein a money laundering case was registered against him.

What is the Controversy? (Param Bir Singh v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.[1])

The former Commissioner Param Bir Singh has alleged that the Home Minister has called Shri Sachin Waze who was heading the Crime Intelligence Unit of the Crime Branch of the Mumbai Police and other police officers at his official residence to collect Rs 100 crore monthly from bars, hotels, and other establishments in Mumbai.

The controversy started off when Sachin Waze was arrested by NIA in the Antilia bomb scare case (recovery of an explosives-laden vehicle which was found parked outside the south Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani) and Param Bir Singh was transferred. He wrote a letter of complaint to the Hon’ble Chief Minister accusing Deshmukh that he has a practice of calling police officials to his residence with a motive to adopt specific agenda to carry out official assignments based on his expectations and target to collect money.

Three Public Interest Litigation (PIL) and a Criminal Writ Petition were instituted before the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay under Article 226 of the Constitution. A Criminal Writ Petition (Cr. WP) was instituted by Dr. Patil as no action was taken for the complaint lodged which highlighted that the letter addressed to the Chief Minister by Param Bir was not considered as an FIR under Section 154(3) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

A writ of mandamus was instituted under Article 32 of the Constitution by Param Bir before the Hon’ble Supreme Court for an unbiased and impartial investigation by the CBI into the corrupt practices and also to quash his transfer order. The Supreme Court granted liberty and a PIL was instituted by Param Bir in the High Court of Bombay with the same prayer.

Two criminal PIL was instituted-

  1. by an advocate Shri Ghanshyam Upadhyaya which prayed for a thorough investigation against the personnel of Mumbai police and all the others involved in the corrupt malpractices involved in the extortion case.
  2. by Shri Mohan Prabhakar Bhide, a chartered accountant cum teacher, which prayed for a direction to constitute a Special Committee to probe into the allegations of Param Bir against Deshmukh.

An interim application was filed by Shri Vinod Kumar Dubey intervening that the PIL instituted by Param Bir was collusive and with an ulterior motive.

Issues for Consideration

  1. Whether the complaint made by Dr. Patil can be registered as an FIR?
  2. Whether the complaint made by Dr. Patil makes out a prima facie case of a cognizable offense?
  3. Whether the writ petitions (PIL) instituted is maintainable?
  4. What relief?

Arguments Advanced by the Petitioner

The arguments put forth by the learned counsel, Shri Nankani appearing for Param Bir can be summed up as follows[2]

  • That the PIL has been instituted for achieving three purposes Firstly, an unbiased investigation by the CBI, Secondly, to question the police transfers and postings at the whims of political masters and Thirdly, effective compliance of the directions contained in Prakash Singh v Union of India[3]
  • That the Court has wide powers under Article 226 to direct CBI investigation
  • That the Hon’ble Supreme Court has directed for CBI probe (preliminary inquiry) even without an FIR[4]
  • That a Commission of Enquiry under the Commissions of Enquiry Act, 1952 is not suitable for investigation of corruption in government and it requires an independent agency
  • That the writ petition is the only remedy available for the police machinery in cases involving high functionary
  • That the matter raised is seriously affecting the entire administration
  • That the secret report of the Commissioner, State Intelligence Department, and the Director-General of Police, Maharashtra State shows that everything is not well in the police department

Dr. Patil, in her petition, prayed for considering her complaint as an FIR as no complaint was lodged by Param Bir to be registered as an FIR.

As regarding the PIL instituted by Shri Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, learned counsel Subhash Jha contended that the case is serious and requires immediate cognizance by the court as there are chances for the evidence to have tampered with. Therefore, the situation calls for a probe by an independent agency to charge the culprits (including Param Bir and Deshmukh).

Arguments Advanced by the Respondent

The arguments put forth by the learned counsel, Shri Kumbhakoni appearing for the State of Maharashtra can be summed up as follows[5]

  • That the PIL instituted by Param Bir is not maintainable as it is connected to secure personal benefit
  • That the allegations made in the letter against Deshmukh is based on hearsay evidence
  • That instead of challenging the transfer order before the concerned forum, Param Bir has instituted the PIL questioning the general police transfers and postings
  • That no complaint was lodged by him prior to his transfer order
  • That if the police fail to register FIR, with regard to Dr. Patil’s Cr. WP, the remedy lies according to Section 156(3) or under Section 200 read with Section 190 of the Cr. PC
  • That the PIL instituted by Shri Ghanshyam Upadhyaya is based on certain newspaper reports which cannot be relied upon by the Hon’ble Court
  • That a High- level Enquiry committee has already been constituted by the Government of Maharashtra to look into the allegations and hence the PIL instituted by Shri Mohan Prabhakar Bhide does not survive for a decision

Verdict

The Hon’ble High Court after perusing the arguments put forth by both sides concluded that the complaint made by Dr. Patil was not processed and its content made out a prima facie case of cognizable offense for the court to order CBI investigation by exercising wide powers under Article 226 of the Constitution.

In its verdict, the Hon’ble High Court relied upon the decision by the Hon’ble Supreme Court[6] wherein it stated that under Article 226 the Courts have power to order for an impartial, unbiased and fair inquiry by an independent agency into the corrupt practices in the public administration, misconduct and other malpractices involving high functionaries[7]. It observed that it becomes necessary in order to instill public confidence in the administration as well in the judiciary.

Analysis

Corruption is a menace to the working of a democratic government. The decision of the High Court ordering a CBI probe into the controversy is much necessary as it involves high officials who run the government. It is also important to instil public confidence as the issue raised in the petitions was serious and the faith of the citizens in the state machinery was at stake.

It would not be fair if the inquiry was held by the State Police Force in Maharashtra as there are chances for the investigation to be biased and hence at this juncture the investigation into the matter by an independent agency like the CBI is the need of the hour.

Recently, Param Bir Singh has moved to the Hon’ble Supreme Court again for the transfer of all the inquiries against him, outside the State of Maharashtra alleging ‘witch hunt’ against him so as to withdraw the extortion case against the former Home Minister[8]. But the plea was not entertained by the Court.

It is important to note at this stage that a case under Atrocities Act has been filed by Inspector Bhimrao Ghadge alleging that Param Bir Singh has defamed the entire police force by involving in corrupt practices during his entire service career. Also, an affidavit has been filed before the Hon’ble High Court stating that the case is not to pressurize Singh to withdraw his petition against Deshmukh and connecting it to the letter written by Singh to the Chief Minister would be baseless[9].

The vacation bench of the High Court has posted the hearing of Singh’s petition on May 21, 2021, but it was adjourned by the bench[10].


[1] Param Bir Singh v. State of Maharashtra and Ors.,  Available Here (last visited May 20, 2021).

[2] Supra note 1

[3] Prakash Singh v. Union of India, (2006) 8 SCC 1

[4] Vishwanath Chaturvedi v. Union of India and Ors., (2007) 4 SCC 380

[5] Supra note 1

[6] State of Bihar and Another v. Ranchi Zila Samta Party and Anr., AIR 1996 SC 1515

[7] Arnab Ranjan Goswami v. Union of India and Ors., (2020) 14 SCC 12

[8] Timesnownews.com, Available Here (last visited May 20, 2021).

[9] The New Indian Express, Available Here (last visited May 20, 2021).

[10] The Times Of India, Available Here (last visited May 21, 2021).


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