It was foolhardy of the MVA govt to appeal in SC against Bombay HC verdict ordering CBI probe, writes Olav Albuquerque

The most foolhardy ploy of the Maharashtra government was to appeal in the Supreme Court against the Bombay high court verdict ordering a CBI probe into whether Anil Deshmukh ordered jailed encounter cop Sachin Vaze to extort Rs 100 crore every month from 1,750 dance bars in Mumbai. Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray could have left Deshmukh to fend for himself, but the government has now shown it has a lot to hide.

Justice Sanjay Kaul rightly observed the allegations against the government were ‘serious’. “Both the home minister and the police chief were working closely together till they fell apart, both holding a particular position. Should the CBI not probe? The nature of these allegations and persons involved require an independent probe,” he said.

Judges unswayed

So, the so-called heavyweight lawyers, like former law minister Kapil Sibal who was representing Anil Deshmukh in the top court, could not sway the judges. He argued there could be no preliminary inquiry without hearing the former home minister. “It’s only an inquiry on the basis of something akin to a press conference. It’s hearsay,” Sibal said. He is wrong because an accused has no right to choose his forum for a trial.

The judges retorted, “It was not your (Anil Deshmukh) enemy, who made the allegations against you but it was done by your right-hand man (Param Bir Singh). The probe should be done against both,” Justice Kaul observed. The judge only said aloud what everybody knew.

So, the Maharashtra government has burnt the taxpayers’ money by defending Anil Deshmukh using Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi, both of whom charge over Rs one crore to argue a matter which was doomed to fail. The aim was to hoodwink the people and the courts by feigning innocence.

Like the retired judge Kailash Chandiwal’s probe report, which is unlikely to indict Deshmukh, the high court rightly ordered a CBI probe because the Mumbai police could not investigate an alleged crime committed by their employers--the state government which pays their salaries. The Supreme Court only iterated what the Bombay high court observed.

Criminal conspiracy

What reporters have conveniently obfuscated is that Anil Deshmukh, Param Bir Singh, Sachin Vaze, Anil Parab, Pradeep Sharma and all the others were all guilty of criminal conspiracy by either playing an active role or keeping silent when the dance bar owners were told to pay up which culminated in the murder of Mansukh Hiran who knew too much. The representative bodies of dance bars, hotels and restaurants all chose to keep silent while their members were paying huge sums as haftas.

Gutka and tobacco sellers were allowed to cause cancer by selling their products if they paid ‘vasooli’ to Vaze who would allegedly pay his political bosses.

When posted in ‘lucrative’ zones like the port or airport zone, policemen like Sachin Vaze and his accomplice Riaz Kazi recover what they may have paid to ministers. Encounter specialists like Sachin Vaze accept blood money from gangsters to kill their rivals in cold blood until one day the law catches up with them. The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, is made a farce by the government which makes the law.

Enter, CBI

The CBI is a creature born out of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946, which mandates the okay of each state government before the agency can probe a crime committed by top ministers. No state government will dig its own grave by allowing this, so when the CBI eventually investigates high-profile crimes like the murder-turned-suicide of Ramesh Kini in 1996, the evidence is destroyed.

Be that as it may, unlike the National Investigative Agency (NIA) which does not require the okay of the state government to do its work, each and every file in the CBI passes through at least nine different levels. If a reply/appeal/petition is to be filed in the high court or the Supreme Court, the file goes up to the CBI director.

These file jottings begin from the investigating officer and spiral upwards to the SP, the senior public prosecutor, the public prosecutor, the DIG, the deputy legal advisor, the joint director, the additional legal adviser, the joint director, the special director and finally the director.

Series of jottings

Every link in the chain puts his comments in the file and passes it upward, so, in the unlikely event Uddhav Thackeray will agree to a CBI probe against Anil Deshmukh, the IO in the CBI may be stymied. He merely sends his jottings to his bosses who may veto his recommendations to prosecute Anil Deshmukh. Like Ashutosh Rane was acquitted by a court for allegedly killing Ramesh Kini but was later killed in a mysterious hit-and-run near Lonavla in 2011, Deshmukh may never get convicted in a criminal court.

And the jottings of the special director may reinforce the findings of the retired judge who may conclude there is insufficient evidence to conclude that Anil Deshmukh did order Sachin Vaze to collect Rs 100 crore as hafta from dance bars every month.

Politics and crime are two sides of the same coin like the ghosts of Ramesh Kini and Mansukh Hiran know very well. Governments disguise their murders using nationalism as a subterfuge while first defending and then discarding their stooges like Sachin Vaze.

The writer holds a PhD in law and is a senior journalist-cum-lawyer of the Bombay high court.

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