NEW DELHI, Nov 22: In a major relief to former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, the Supreme Court on Monday protected him from arrest in criminal cases lodged against him in Maharashtra, wondering that if he is being hounded for filing cases against police officers and extortionists, “what could happen to a common man”.
The matter involving Singh and former State home minister Anil Deshmukh, facing probe into the corruption allegations levelled by Singh, has become “curiouser and curiouser”, the top court said, issuing notices to the Maharashtra Government, its DGP Sanjay Pande and the CBI on the plea of the former top cop of Mumbai.
A bench headed by Justice S K Kaul, which had said on November 19 that “no protection, no hearing until we know where you are”, was informed at the outset by senior advocate Puneet Bali that Singh does not want to abscond, is very much in India and apprehends threat of his life.
“The former Commissioner of police of Mumbai says that I have threat to life from Mumbai police then what faith the other people will have,” said the bench which also comprised Justices M Sundresh.
Singh was the Police Commissioner and has his own sources and the fact that as many as six criminal cases have been lodged against him by “extortionists, bookies and police officers” against whom he had acted in past in the capacity of a police officer after he raised the corruption issue against Deshmukh are sufficient proof that he is being hounded, the senior lawyer said.
“This is allegedly happening to the former commissioner. We wonder what could happen to a common man. This matter has become curiouser and curiouser between the then home minister and then commissioner…
“Issue notice to Respondents. Returnable on December 6. Meantime, the petitioner shall join the investigation and shall not be arrested,” the bench ordered.
After hearing the arguments for some time, it said that the only question which is to be examined was whether the CBI, investigating the corruption case against Deshmukh, can be entrusted with other aspects arising from the case.
“The stand of the CBI and the State Government are also not known as the writ petition has been decided (in the Bombay High Court) on the threshold point of sending it (Singh’s plea) to the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). Prima facie this may not be the appropriate course of action,” the bench ordered.
At the outset, Bali said Singh was in India and even had a talk with him.
“Instructions received from the advocate-on-record and also the client has spoken to me, he is very much in the country and he does not want to abscond and he does not want to run anywhere. The discussion with him is that the moment he touches Maharashtra and the police, there is an imminent threat to his life,” the senior lawyer said.
He said Singh needed protection as he had shown the courage to come to this court and raise the issue of corruption against the former State home minister.
Assailing the high court order, he said that I was told to go to the CAT for getting the CBI investigation and the law governing CAT does not provide the scope for CBI probe and “my case is the fit case for grant of protection as a whistleblower”.
The former police chief also referred to the transcripts of conversation which he had with DGP Pande when he had gone to “formally hand over the charge”, the lawyer said, adding that he was advised to take back his complaint and not to fight the system.
Recording the submissions, the bench said it did not want to deal with this aspect more at the moment.
Bali said as many as six FIRs have been lodged against Singh for the alleged offences pertaining to years like 2015 and 2016 and submitted as to how a police officer will act if they are hounded at the behest of state for the actions done as police officers on the complaints of bookies and extortionists.
He added that the FIRs lodged against him were by bookies, extortionists and other people against whom Mr. Param Bir had taken action earlier.
“He (DGP) says withdraw the letter of March 20 (the letter sent to the CM informing about the activities of the then home minister). If you don’t have instructions that many cases will be registered against you. He says I have to make peace with the Home Minister..,” the lawyer said.
The counsel said that Singh was willing to appear before CBI and the CBI court to dispel the impression that he was not cooperating.
Earlier, the top court had asked the former Mumbai police commissioner to disclose his whereabouts before seeking protection in criminal cases.
“You are seeking protective orders; nobody knows where you are. Suppose you are sitting abroad and taking legal recourse through power of attorney then what happens. If that is so then you will come to India if the court rules in your favour, we don’t know what you have in mind. No protection, no hearing until we know where you are,” it had said.
It had further said: “The petition has been filed through power of attorney. Where are you. Are you in this country or outside? In some states, where are you. We will come to the remaining, first we know where you are?”
Prior to this, the Bombay high court had dismissed Singh’s petition seeking to quash inquiries initiated against him by the Maharashtra government, and said he can approach the Central Administrative Tribunal.
The High Court had held that it was a service matter, and rejected his claim that the Government’s action was a consequence of his allegations of corruption against then Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh.
After Singh was shunted out as Mumbai police commissioner in March 2021 in the aftermath of the ‘Antilia bomb scare case’, Singh, in a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, levelled corruption allegations against Deshmukh.
In his petition, Singh had also alleged that DGP Pande told him that the inquiries were the fall-out of his allegations against Deshmukh, an NCP leader.
Singh was transferred to the Home Guard after Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze was arrested in the case of an SUV with explosives found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s house, ‘Antilia’, and the subsequent suspicious death of businessman Mansukh Hiran. (PTI)