Sitting till late in the night, the Bombay High Court bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Surendra Tawade on Friday midnight ordered the Maharashtra government not to arrest Parambir Singh, the former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai till Monday. The HC sat for over 13 hours on Friday starting from morning 10:30 till 12 midnight, with Parambir Singh's matter being the last to be taken up after 60 other cases.
The bench is seized with a plea filed by Singh seeking to quash an FIR lodged initially at Akola and later transferred to Bazar Peth police station, Kalyan district. This FIR lodged by officer Bhimrao Ghadge accuses Singh of forcing the cop to register bogus cases against KDMC officials, however, when he refused to succumb to Singh's pressure, false cases of the attempt of murder were registered against him.
Ghadge, who was acquitted after 14 months of jail, claimed that he was tortured and harassed by Singh only because he belonged to Mahad caste and accordingly booked the former top cop under provisions of stringent SC-ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Civil Rights Protection Act, Indian Penal Code and the Maharashtra Police Act.
Appearing for Singh, senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani argued that his client was a target of a vendetta.
"The state has registered in all five FIRs against my client. All this to pressurise him to withdraw his complaint against Anil Deshmukh the former home minister. But I won't give up," Jethmalani argued for Singh.
The senior counsel further highlighted how DGP Sanjay Pandey advised him not to proceed with his complaint against Deshmukh else he would face a slew of false cases. "The DGP advised him against pursuing his complaint. He continues to hold his position but my client is being labelled as a villain," Jethmalani argued.
"Similarly, Rashmi Shukla, another honest officer is being targeted for exposing the corrupt practices in the state's police department. She is also facing FIR under Official Secrets Act," Jethmalani pointed out.
In his submissions, Jethmalani argued that no case was made out against him under the SC-ST law. "Also the cases that Ghadge claims my client forced him to lodge have culminated into charge sheets, which competent courts have admitted. The courts in those cases are at the stage of framing charges," he argued.
Jethmalani further said that his client is being targeted because of his complaint letter against Deshmukh wherein he alleged that the senior NCP leader asked suspended cop Sachin Waze to extort up to Rs 100 crore from the city's bars and restaurants.
The plea was opposed vehemently by senior counsel Darius Khambatta for the state. He pointed out that there wasn't any vendetta against Singh.
"There is no vendetta or malafide. The complaints lodged against him (Singh) are cognizable and show prima facie material against him thus the FIRs," Khambatta clarified.
However, Justice Kathawalla sought to know the timing of the FIRs.
"We don't understand as to why all these FIRs now after the fallout with the then home minister?" the judge questioned.
To this, Khambatta clarified that the case is in no manner related to Deshmukh's probe.
"Singh passed illegal orders asking Ghadge to lodge fake FIRs. He didn't succumb to Singh's pressure and thus was booked in a bogus attempt to murder and kidnapping case,", Khambatta pointed out.
"In fact, Ghadge has been acquitted from the attempted murder case. This shows the case lodged by Singh against him was bogus. Also, Singh was very much aware of Ghadge's case and yet continued to torture him thus the SC-ST provisions. If this isn't a case of atrocities then what would be," Khambatta argued while highlighting that Ghadge had to be in prison for 14 months due to Singh.
Having heard the submissions till 12 midnight, the bench said since it would seize to be vacation court at the stroke of 12 am, the matter is adjourned till Wednesday.
"We had asked the Maharashtra government to continue with its statement of no coercive action against Singh till Monday but the stated refused to do so. Thus, we had to hear the arguments," the bench said in its orders.
"We, therefore, direct the state not to arrest Singh till Monday," Justice Kathawalla said.