Former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh told the Bombay High Court on Friday that the ongoing CBI inquiry against him over corruption charges was illegal and in breach of legal procedures, and said even 26/11 terrorist Ajmal Kasab got the benefit of the rule of law. Deshmukh’s counsel, senior advocate Amit Desai, told the HC that though the CBI inquiry was initiated following a high court order in April, the central agency did not seek prior sanction from the Maharashtra government to prosecute the NCP leader, who was at the time a public servant.
This absence of sanction made the inquiry against Deshmukh, on the charges of corruption and misconduct, “illegal," Desai said. “Can you bypass the requirement of law? The State could have been approached (for sanction). Therefore, the entire enquiry is illegal," Desai said.
“We may be carried away by emotion but we cannot bypass the procedure and the rule of law. Even a person like Kasab got the benefit of the rule of law in this country. Everyone in this country gets the benefit of the process of law," he said. Desai was arguing before a bench of Justices SS Shinde and NM Jamadar that was presiding over a plea filed by Deshmukh challenging the FIR registered by the CBI against him in the aftermath of corruption allegations made against him by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
In April this year, a bench led by HC chief justice Dipankar Datta had directed the CBI to conduct a preliminary inquiry against Deshmukh, who resigned from the state cabinet after the order. This inquiry was to be based upon a complaint lodged at the Malabar Hill police station in Mumbai by a lawyer, Jaishri Patil.
In her complaint seeking a probe against both Deshmukh and Singh, Patil had also attached a copy of the letter written by the IPS officer to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray making allegations against the NCP leader. The CBI subsequently lodged an FIR against Deshmukh on charges of corruption and misconduct.
The agency said in its FIR that Deshmukh had knowledge of the reinstatement of former assistant police inspector Sachin Waze (who is in jail in a criminal case), and that as the home minister he used to exercise undue interference in transfers and postings of state police officers. On Friday, advocate Desai told the HC that though the preliminary inquiry was in accordance with the HC order, the CBI breached the process of law in registering the FIR against Deshmukh.
Desai said section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act mandated that the police or any other investigating agency procure a prior sanction to prosecute a public servant.The bench, however, pointed out that section 17A protected an officer’s conduct that was in discharge of his or her official duties. It said the CBI had said in its affidavit filed in the case that by allegedly indulging in corruption, and interfering in transfers, Deshmukh had not been discharging his official duties.
Desai, however, argued that according to the CBI’s FIR, all of Deshmukh’s acts, including his knowledge of Waze’s reinstatement, were in discharge of his public duty." According to your (CBI’s) own FIR, I was acting in my official position. Then wouldn’t the bar of 17A apply?" Desai said.
He further said at mere knowledge did not constitute an offence. Desai said the FIR was based merely on “whispers" and allegations. “Allegations are made against anybody and everybody. If every allegation is to be believed then there will be total anarchy," Desai stated. The HC will continue hearing the plea on July 5.
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