NEW DELHI: In a setback to the Maharashtra government and its former home minister Anil Deshmukh, the Supreme Court on Thursday allowed the CBI to go ahead with its probe into former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations against the NCP functionary of extortion, bribes for transfers and interference in investigations into important criminal cases.
A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta said probe by an independent agency was needed in the case in view of involvement of high-profile figures of the level of minister and former Mumbai police chief in the controversy. The bench said the minister and the police chief were hand in glove and working together till they fell apart.
The apex court said it was not a case of corporate or political rivalry but a “virtual right hand man” of the minister making allegations against him.
Senior advocates A M Singhvi and Kapil Sibal, appearing respectively for the Maharashtra government and Deshmukh, tried their best to convince the bench that the HC order was illegal as it was passed without giving an opportunity to the minister to counter the allegations and it will set a bad precedent if a probe is ordered on hearsay without credible evidence against a person.
They invoked the SC verdict in the Birla-Sahara diary case to emphasise that investigation against a person can be ordered only when there is prima facie evidence against him and not on the basis of diary entry or allegations. Sibal said that law must be equally applicable to all.
But the court dismissed their plea and was so convinced about the correctness of the HC order that the order was passed without hearing Param Bir Singh and other opposite parties. Senior advocates Harish Salve, Mukul Rohatgi and Ranjit Kumar did not have to argue the case against the state government and the former minister.
“Dehors the niceties of an elaborate order passed by the HC, we are of the view that the nature of allegations, the personas involved and the seriousness of the allegations do require an independent agency to inquire into the matter. It is a matter of public confidence, given the factual scenario. We may also add that what has been directed is a preliminary inquiry albeit by an independent agency,” the court said.
Singhvi and Sibal had contended that the CBI probe was not required after Deshmukh’s resignation.