The Maharashtra Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, after an extensive discussion on the political situation arising from the former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh’s corruption allegations against Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, has decided to set up an inquiry panel headed by a retired high court judge to probe the matter.
The panel will be set up after seeking the opinion of the law and judiciary departments on whether it will function under the Commission of Inquiry Act or it will be without any judicial powers. The move is to puncture Singh’s demand for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation into the alleged demand of the home minister for the collection of Rs 100 crore monthly from hotels and restaurants and bars.
The Free Press Journal broke the story of the government’s move today. A senior minister told The FPJ, “The name of the retired judge will be finalised in consultation with Advocate General Ashutosh Kumbhakoni. The formation of the panel will coincide with Singh’s legal battle after he withdrew his petition in the Supreme Court and filed a fresh petition in the Bombay high court, demanding a CBI probe.''
He said the inquiry panel will be tasked with looking into the charges levelled by Singh against Deshmukh and whether those allegations, based on verbal talk, can pass the legal test. The panel will be asked to submit a report within a stipulated time frame.
Further, the CM and the cabinet ministers also finalised the legal strategy to counter Singh’s petition. “The government will strongly justify Singh’s transfer. In its argument, the government will submit that if Singh has an objection, he can approach the Central Administrative Tribunal, and not the high court, for redressal. Besides, the government will argue that corruption charges made on WhatsApp messages or in verbal conversation will set a bad trend, as it will lead to character assassination. Therefore, Singh should have filed an FIR against Deshmukh, instead of firing a letter bomb after he was shunted out as Mumbai Police Commissioner,” said the minister.
The ruling Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress ministers, including Anil Parab, Nawab Malik, Jitendra Awhad and Balasaheb Thorat made a strong case for a legal fight against Singh and a political fight against the BJP, which has been levelling new charges daily against the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.
Further, the cabinet was unanimous on initiating disciplinary or legal action against former additional director general of police (intelligence) Rashmi Shukla for preparing a report based on phone tapping on the alleged police transfer racket. “Shukla had vaguely sought the permission of the additional chief secretary (home) but she had not spelt out the purpose,” said another minister.
Housing Minister Jitendra Awhad said, “The report of Rashmi Shukla has maligned the police department, depicting herself as the only upright and clean officer and all the rest as corrupt. All the officers she has named should ask the government and go to court against her.’’ “How can anybody, as a police officer, tap any citizen’s phone? Are there no rules and regulations for this? In this case, it looks like the officers thought they could do anything. Who can guarantee that more phones were not tapped? It is simply horrible,” he observed.
Furthermore, MVA ministers pressed the need for increasing checks and balances on bureaucrats and police officers, as in the present case, some may have been still working for the BJP. “The government should have kept a close vigil since it assumed office. Some bureaucrats and police officers had assumed that the BJP would come back to power and hence, are still showing loyalty to it. The government cannot afford such a nexus and it should be broken at the earliest,” a minister said.