Amid attacks from BJP, the Maharashtra Government on Tuesday appointed a one-member high-level committee headed by retired judge Kailash Chandiwal to probe the corruption charges levelled by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh against the Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. The committee will have to submit a report within six months.
Interestingly to avoid further attacks from BJP and negative publicity, the state government has not formed the committee under the Commission of Inquiry Act 1952, but it has been set up by an order issued by the General Administration Department. The committee has no teeth as it lacks powers to summon and enforce the attendance of any person, and examine him or her on oath which is applicable under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952. Further, the Judicial Commission appointed under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952 is entitled to receive evidence on affidavit.
However, the one-member panel will inquire into corruption charges made by Singh in his letter dated March 20, 2021, addressed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. Singh had alleged that Deshmukh had told Sachin Vaze, who has been arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Mukesh Ambani threat case, that he had a target of collecting Rs 100 crore a month from bars, restaurants and other establishments. The committee will probe whether such a demand was made by Deshmukh or his office staff and whether Singh had submitted evidence against the Home Minister and his staff along with his letter.
Further, the panel will also probe whether there is a need for an investigation by the Anti Corruption Bureau or any other agency to look into an offence, if any, committed by the Home Minister or his staff as per Singh’s allegations made in his letter after his transfer. The government notification mentions that Singh had made these charges based on the information that he received from the assistant commissioner Sanjay Patil and Vaze.
The committee will make recommendations in connection with the issues that will come up during the probe.
Deshmukh, who had denied Singh’s charges, on March 20 itself had urged Thackeray to conduct a probe through a high-level committee. Subsequently, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had said the charges made by Singh were ‘’ serious’’ and it should be probed. He, however, turned around saying that based on the papers available with him such a probe was not needed but he had left the decision to Thackeray being his prerogative.
The appointment of a panel is similar to a committee headed by retired judge Dinkar Zoting which probed the corruption charges against former revenue minister Eknath Khadse in connection with the purchase of a three-acre plot at Bhosari in Pune. However, the BJP-led government, which had formed the panel, did not make it public.