Mumbai: In what could spell serious trouble for Maharashtra home minister and senior NCP leader Anil Deshmukh, the Bombay High Court on Monday ordered the CBI chief to conduct a preliminary enquiry into the corruption allegations levelled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni, while describing the case as "extraordinary and unprecedented," asked the CBI director to complete its enquiry within 15 days.
"It is indeed unheard of and unprecedented that a Minister is openly accused of wrongdoings and corrupt practices by none other than a senior police officer, attracting wide attention from all and sundry," CJ Datta observed.
The judges clarified that the CBI must not register an FIR immediately since the Maharashtra government has already set up a "high level committee" to deal with the matter.
"The GR issued by the state government constituting a high level committee leads us to believe that no interference is required," Chief Justice Datta said while pronouncing the verdict. "However, we do agree that this is an unprecedented case before the court. Deshmukh is the home minister who leads the state police force. Thus, there has to be an independent enquiry," the CJ added.
The bench accordingly ordered the CBI director to conduct a preliminary enquiry into the matter but not to register an FIR immediately.
"We believe interest of justice will be done if the director of CBI is allowed to conduct a preliminary inquiry and it should be ordered in accordance with law and be concluded within 15 days," the CJ said.
"Once the report is submitted, the director of CBI may decide the future course as per his discretion," the bench added.
The judges said that they cannot be mere spectators in such a situation, especially when the confidence of the citizens in the police force is at stake.
"Prima facie, the issues are such that the very faith of citizens in the functioning of the police department is at stake. Such allegations, therefore, cannot remain unattended and are required to be looked into in the manner known to law when, prima facie, they indicate commission of a cognizable offence," the judges said.
"It is, hence, certainly an issue of credibility of the State machinery, which would stare us in the face when confronted with the expectations of the law and when such complaints are received against high ranking public officials. This court cannot be a mere spectator in these circumstances," the bench added.
The bench was seized with a plea filed by Parambir Singh seeking a thorough probe into his allegations by an independent agency like the CBI. The former top cop has alleged that the home minister had instructed arrested cop Sachin Waze to collect Rs 100 crore per month from various bars and restaurants.
The state had objected to his plea stating that he has brought in these allegations only because he was removed from the top cop's post and transferred to another department.