Mumbai: Senior IPS officer Rashmi Shukla informed the Bombay high court on Wednesday that necessary permissions were taken from the Maharashtra government before certain phone numbers were put under surveillance to authenticate complaints of corruption in police transfers and postings.
The arguments were made before a division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar which is hearing a petition filed by Shukla challenging an FIR lodged against her by the Mumbai police’s cyber cell in a case of illegal phone tapping and alleged leaking of sensitive documents related to police postings.
Shukla’s counsel Mahesh Jethmalani argued that she was Commissioner, State Intelligence Department between October 11, 2018, and September 3, 2020. During this time, based on a report, the then Director General of Police had directed her to conduct surveillance on certain phone numbers after taking necessary permissions from the Home Ministry. “The numbers belonged to a few brokers with political connections indulging in corruption and demanding massive monetary compensation for plum postings and transfers,” argued Jethmalani.
Jethmalani argued that the DGP took cognisance against certain individuals allegedly facilitating transfers by using purported links with politicians. During preliminary investigation, no evidence was gathered and hence the DGP asked to put certain phone numbers under surveillance to learn the modus operandi.
“The then DGP had directed Rashmi Shukla to carry out surveillance. She was only following the DGP’s directives. Shukla had then taken permission from the then state government’s Additional Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte under the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act,” Jethmalani argued.
Jethmalani added that Kunte had given permission to Shukla to carry out surveillance from July 17, 2020, to July 29, 2020. “Kunte confirmed this in his report submitted to the government on March 25, 2021. But later he said he was misled while permission was sought,” Jethmalani argued.
He further argued that Shukla was now being made a scapegoat. “This is extreme retribution on the part of state government. The lady police officer has put in 35 years of service with honesty and sincerity. She was then unceremoniously removed from the post of Commissioner, State Intelligence Department. She is now at CRPF, Hyderabad,” added Jethmalani.
The senior counsel added: “Interception for prevention of crime is a valid ground for interception of wireless messages.”
On court’s query, additional public prosecutor Jayesh Yagnik said that an investigation report was submitted in a sealed envelope.
The HC will continue hearing the petition on August 5 and said the earlier assurance given by the police in May that it would not take any coercive action or arrest Shukla shall continue till then.
The petition said that Shukla had exposed the alleged nexus between ministers and politicians and other gross corruption involved in assigning postings to police officers. Instead of applauding and appreciating the work of the petitioner, the "government authorities are involved in framing the petitioner in a false criminal case", it alleged.
The FIR was registered at the BKC cyber police station in Mumbai against unidentified persons for allegedly tapping phones illegally and leaking certain confidential documents on the complaint filed by the Maharashtra Intelligence Department.
The alleged tapping of phones had taken place when Shukla headed the state intelligence department. At present, Shukla is serving as additional director general of the Central Reserve Police Force's (CRPF) South Zone and is posted in Hyderabad.
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