Mumbai: In a setback to former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, the Supreme Court on Thursday refused to interfere with the Bombay High Court judgment, allowing the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the allegations of corruption levelled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Dismissing appeals of both Deshmukh and the Maharashtra government, a bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta said the nature of allegations and persons involved requires an independent probe.
“The nature of allegations and personas involved needs an enquiry by an independent agency. It is a matter of public confidence. We are not inclined to entertain this. Dismissed,” the court said.
Deshmukh, who wanted to skip the CBI probe, will now have to face it. That means his wait for political rehabilitation will take longer and he will have to defend his case on his own. He will also have to simultaneously face a media trial and blistering attacks from the BJP.
As far as the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government is concerned, it will continue to be targeted by the BJP. The opposition’s strategy clearly seems to be offence is the best defence, given that the MVA government is struggling to salvage its image which has taken a serious beating in the wake of corruption charges and the series of exposures after the Antilia bomb scare case and the Mansukh Hiran death case.
The BJP has termed the MVA government as ‘Maha Vasooli Sarkar’, saying that it has been involved in corruption ever since it assumed office. The MVA partners – the Shiv Sena, the NCP and the Congress - will have to persist in their fight to combat the war of perception being waged by the BJP.
A senior MVA minister told The Free Press Journal, “There is worry among the ruling partners that the BJP’s continuous firing of salvos will create a negative perception in people’s minds, which will not augur well for the MVA ahead of the ensuing elections to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation. The BJP has already launched Mission Mumbai 2022 with a resolve to win the mayor’s post.” He said it was not just the BJP, but the Congress, a key partner, which had claimed at its internal meeting that the MVA government’s image has been dented and there was need for some serious damage control.
Ironically, despite the BJP’s attempts to keep the MVA government on the firing line, the three ruling partners had miserably failed to improve coordination and devise a strategy to take on their nemesis. As the CBI probe will progress for 15 days and perhaps beyond, the MVA faces a litmus test to first make over its image and thereafter, consolidate its presence in the state.
On Singhvi pointing out that the Maharashtra government had withdrawn general consent to CBI probes in the State long ago and the central investigating agency can probe cases in Maharashtra only with the consent of the state government or on the orders of High court or the top court, Justice Kaul said, “He (Deshmukh) did not resign when commission of inquiry was ordered. … He was clinging to his office... You can't say it affects the federal structure. This does not happen every day. Both (Deshmukh and ex-CP) have been heads of institutions where something has gone wrong.”