The Bombay High Court on Thursday said the CBI can inquire into the transfer and postings of police personnel and the reinstatement of ex-API Sachin Waze in the Mumbai police force “so far as this has a nexus with Maharashtra’s former home minister Anil Deshmukh and his associates”.
A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar also noted that it was the duty of the Commissioner of Police to enforce the law of the land and he is “not a servant of anyone, but the law itself”.
The HC, in its judgment, remarked that the allegations of corruption and misconduct levelled by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh against Mr Deshmukh and if the reinstatement of Sachin Waze in 2020 after so many years of suspension had any quid pro quo (a favour/advantage granted in return for something), then it is a matter of investigation.
The court dismissed a petition filed by the Maharashtra government seeking that two paragraphs from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) FIR against Mr Deshmukh be set aside.
While one paragraph is about allegations (of extortion) levelled against the NCP leader by former Assistant Police Inspector (API) Sachin Waze, dismissed from service after his arrest in the Antilia bomb scare case, the second one pertains to alleged corruption in transfers and postings of police officials.
“The investigating agency (CBI), in our view, can legitimately carry on its inquiry into the transfer and postings of police personnel and the reinstatement of Sachin Waze in the police force after 15 years, so far as this has a nexus with the former home minister and his associates,” the court said.
The bench noted that the allegations of extortion of money and attempts to influence investigations and transfer of particular officers to achieve these objectives “form an inseparable part of the alleged conspiracy”.
The bench, in its order, also made remarks on the police commissioner, saying, “The Commissioner of Police is not a servant of anyone, but the law itself.”
“We hold it to be the duty of the Commissioner of Police to enforce the law of the land and he must take steps to post his men so that crime is detected and honest citizens can go about their work,” the HC said, referring to a judgment passed by Lord Denning, a well-known UK judge.
Notably, when Mr Deshmukh was the state home minister, senior IPS officer Param Bir Singh had served as Mumbai’s police commissioner.
In March this year, Mr Singh, in a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, had levelled allegations of corruption against Mr Deshmukh.
The bench noted that the allegations levelled by Mr Singh in his letter against Mr Deshmukh “were not restricted to lack of probity in performance of public duty but the administration of law was itself put to test of character”.
“The allegations are not restricted to extortion of money. The matter of interference in the performance of the official duties by police officers, including the course of investigation in particular matters, as alleged, has the propensity to erode the very edifice of enforcement of law,” the court said.
On the reinstatement of Sachin Waze, the HC said, “Waze had no opportunity to harness his investigation skill, for 15 long years, before reinstatement. Was there any quid pro quo in posting Sachin Waze in a specialized crime branch and entrusting investigation of important and sensational cases is also a matter which cannot be said to be totally unconnected with the allegations in the letter of Param Bir Singh.”
The HC on Thursday noted that conversely, the observations made by another bench in its order of April 5, directing the CBI to carry out a preliminary enquiry against Mr Deshmukh, cannot be construed as to giving unfettered authority to the agency to inquire into transfers and postings of police personnel in general.
“The CBI, a premier investigating agency, can and must be allowed to take responsibility and authority in the investigation and with an assurance that it (CBI) shall act in accordance with law,” the court said.
Senior counsel Rafiq Dada, appearing for the Maharashtra government, sought the HC to stay its judgment for a period of two weeks.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the CBI, however, opposed it.
The high court refused to stay its judgment noting, “We do not think it expedient to stay the effect and operation of this judgment. Otherwise, it would amount to interfering with the investigation, which is underway.”
The CBI, on April 21 this year, registered an FIR against Mr Deshmukh on charges of corruption and misuse of official position.
The FIR was lodged after the agency conducted a preliminary enquiry against the NCP leader following an order from the HC on April 5.
Sachin Waze, now in jail, had claimed he was asked to collect money from bar and restaurant owners in Mumbai allegedly on instructions of Mr Deshmukh, who has repeatedly denied the allegations against him.
The state government, in its petition, had said issues regarding transfer and postings of police personnel and allegations levelled by Sachin Waze against Mr Deshmukh were not relevant to the central agency”s case.
The state government claimed it does not want to interfere in the CBI’s probe against Mr Deshmukh and others beyond these two allegations, which were not mandated to be investigated as per the April 5 order of the HC.
The plea, filed by the state on April 30, said inserting the said two paragraphs was to find out some material enabling opposition parties to try and destabilise the current government in Maharashtra.
Mr Deshmukh had resigned from the cabinet after the HC directed the CBI to conduct a probe into the allegations of corruption and misconduct levelled against him.
The NCP leader has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)