Former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh has raised the issue of legality in appointment of an interim CBI Director, in his plea challenging the Bombay High Court order directing a preliminary enquiry by the agency into corruption allegations levelled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.
The special leave petition, filed by Deshmukh, said: “Presently, the CBI today is being headed by an interim Director, the legality of which is also sub judice before this court. This is also factor that should have been taken into account, before the court passed the order that it did.”
The Supreme Court on Monday orally had observed that an acting CBI Director cannot go on for a long time and asked the Centre to consider convening a high-power committee headed by the Prime Minister for appointment of the new agency chief.
On March 12, the Supreme Court had sought reply from the Centre on a plea by NGO Common Cause, represented by advocate Prashant Bhushan, seeking direction to immediately appoint a regular CBI Director. Bhushan has contended that a proper appointment as per the statutory law is necessary for upholding the rule of law and for enforcement of the rights of the citizens under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
Deshmukh’s plea also raised several issues with the High Court order and argued that these are of seminal importance which impact not just the federal structure of the country, but raises issues of procedures which may have a serious impact on polity.
The plea questioned ex-parte procedure adopted by the High Court and also taken into consideration the state government has withdrawn its consent for the CBI to investigate matters in its territory.
“To record in a judicial order, that the police in Maharashtra cannot be trusted with investigating matters of this nature, in the context of allegations of a police officer, proceeded on an assumption, which is unsustainable, and without any demonstrable reason,” said the plea.
Deshmukh sought stay on the High Court as interim relief.
The Maharashtra government and Deshmukh have moved the Supreme Court, challenging the order of a division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni, which on Monday asked the CBI to complete its “preliminary probe” within 15 days on the issues raised by Singh in his “letter-bomb” last month.
However, the court said that the CBI need not register a First Information Report (FIR) immediately as the Maharashtra government has already set up a “high-level committee” to probe the matter.
“The Government Resolution by the state government for a high-level committee leads us to believe that there is no interference required,” said Chief Justice Datta. Hours after the verdict, Deshmukh quit his post.
Earlier on Tuesday, newly-appointed Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil, who took charge, had said: “The state government will challenge the Bombay HC order before the Supreme Court.”
Besides Singh’s PIL, the court heard three other pleas – one filed by Ghanshyam Upadhyay seeking a court-monitored SIT, another by Mohan Bhide wanting a retired HC or SC judge to probe and a third by Jayshri Patil for a CBI, or any other independent agency, probe.
In his plea, Singh had sought a thorough probe by the CBI into his allegations that Deshmukh had asked arrested Mumbai policeman Sachin Vaze “to collect Rs 100 crore per month” and also challenged his own transfer to Commandant General, Home Guards.
The state had strongly objected to the plea on grounds that Singh made the allegations only because he was shunted out of his post as Mumbai police chief.