In a major embarrassment for the city’s former Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, the Bombay high court on Wednesday threw the rulebook at him, spelling out the exact steps he should have taken to get an FIR registered against the state home minister Anil Deshmukh for the alleged extortion racket. The HC said the top cop failed in his duty as a commissioner by not filing an FIR against his boss Deshmukh despite being privy to the fact that he was allegedly involved in wrongdoing.
A bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Girish Kulkarni also asked Singh how it could order the CBI to probe the matter -- as requested by the latter -- when there was no FIR in the case.
The judges, after hearing lengthy arguments from various parties, including the state, closed the matter for orders on a limited point, i.e. the preliminary objection raised by the state government while opposing a CBI probe in the absence of an FIR.
“We fail to understand under what law can the CBI be ordered to probe when there is no FIR at all,” CJ Datta told senior counsel Vikram Nankani, appearing for Singh. “Which law allows a court to order probe by CBI in absence of any FIR? There isn’t any law as such,” the judges said.
At this, Nankani told the bench that his client had written an eight-page letter to the CM detailing his contentions against Deshmukh. He cited several instances when such letters have been made a complaint by courts.
“You (Singh) wrote letters to the CM but no such letter was written to this court for us to consider it suo motu,” CJ Datta pointed out.
“We think you have failed in your duty as the commissioner of police in not filing any FIR against your own boss despite knowing his wrongdoings. You should have had filed one,” the CJ remarked.
The bench, further detailing the procedure, told Nankani that his client should have filed an FIR. “The crux of the matter is there is no FIR and still there is a prayer to order CBI to probe the case,” the judge said.
“You have the option to directly file an FIR or approach the Magistrate and seek a prayer for filing an FIR,” the bench explained.
At this, Nankani urged the bench to not get into ‘technicalities’ and consider ordering a thorough probe directly.
“Do not view yourself so high that you are above the law. The law remains the same for all,” the judges remarked.
Nankani further submitted the matter could not be allowed to be probed by state police as the allegations were against the state home minister.
“Today, you say the home minister is involved, so the state force shouldn’t probe and only the CBI can investigate. God forbid, what if tomorrow the Prime Minister is alleged to have been involved in the case. Then what? Will you oppose CBI probe too?” the CJ questioned.
Meanwhile, the bench insisted on going through the station diary of the Malabar Hill Police Station, where an FIR was filed by one Jaishri Patil. However, the state, through advocate general Ashutosh Kumbhakoni, informed the judges that no record was maintained in the station diary and that there was only an inward entry.
Kumbhakoni also said the state was eager and anxious to clear the cloud of suspicion over the allegations against home minister Deshmukh. He said most of the contentions in the letter were mere hearsay and that Singh had not been personally privy to any of the alleged incidents.
The bench sought to know the state’s stand on the issue of a probe into the matter. The AG responded that a one-member committee was set up to enquire into the case. He also informed that the report by Rashmi Shukla was “given the seriousness it deserved”.
The AG reiterated that the court could not allow a probe in the absence of a proper FIR and thus the PIL filed by Singh was not maintainable.
Having heard the contentions from various parties for more than five hours, the bench closed the matter for deciding the preliminary objection raised by the state to Singh’s PIL.