‘Battle royale’: SC orders transfers all cases against Mumbai ex-top cop to CBI

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Terming the legal clash between former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh and former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh as “battle royale”, the Supreme Court on Thursday ordered a CBI probe into all cases lodged against Singh by the Maharashtra Police.

Emphasising that an impartial probe into the matter is required, it clarified that it is not revoking Singh’s suspension, and also, if there were any FIRs registered against Singh in future, then these will also be transferred to the CBI.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and M.M. Sundresh said the CBI must hold an impartial probe in all the aspects of the matter and examine whether the allegations in the FIRs have any truth or not.

“What is the truth, who is at fault… How does such a scenario come to prevail is something which investigation must get into. CBI must hold an impartial inquiry into all these aspects,” it said.

It directed the Maharashtra Police to hand over all the cases, which includes 5 FIRs and two PEs, to the CBI within a week and render all assistance to the central agency in its probe into the cases against Singh.

Justice Kaul observed that a very murky affair is going on amid echelons of power on who should investigate the matter.

“The exigencies in the advancement of principles of justice require the investigation to be transferred to CBI… We are not saying the appellant is a whistle-blower or anyone involved in this case is washed with milk,” the bench noted.

It also stressed that the objective is to embolden and gain people’s confidence in the police and this is not a reflection on Maharashtra Police.

“The troubling situation arising at the higher echelons has been presented before us,” said the bench.

Senior advocate Darius Khambata, representing the Maharashtra government, vehemently argued that cases should not be transferred to the CBI, as it will be very demoralising for the state police.

During the hearing, the bench observed: “The murky churning from the battle royale between then Home Minister and the then Police Commissioner has given rise to these unfortunate proceedings on which we have commented before.”

Senior advocate Puneet Bali, representing Singh, submitted that CBI should probe all the cases registered against his client, and not the state police on which he does not have faith, even though he headed the same.

The bench noted, “We are of the view that the state itself should have allowed CBI to carry the investigation.” It clarified that the court was commenting on the merits of the allegations, as it does not want to influence the investigation.

“The high court (Bombay) has treated this as a service dispute which it is not and thus, we set aside the HC verdict.”

Singh is facing multiple cases of extortion, corruption, and misconduct, and was removed from the post of Mumbai Police chief over his alleged mishandling of the Antilia bomb scare case.

The bench was hearing a plea by Singh against the Bombay High Court judgment passed in September last year, dismissing his plea challenging the two inquiries ordered by the Home Ministry for allegedly violating service rules and corruption charges, as non-maintainable.

In November, last year, the apex court granted protection from arrest to Singh in criminal cases lodged against him. Singh had claimed that inquiries were initiated against him after he accused Deshmukh of ordering (now arrested) police officer Sachin Vaze to collect money from bars and restaurants to the tune of Rs 100 crore.

Singh claimed the Home Department resorted to a witch hunt after he refused to withdraw his letter (written last year) to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, where he had made the corruption allegations.

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