HC refuses to quash CBI FIR against Deshmukh, says can't embark on uncovering truth when probe on

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Mumbai, Jul 22 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to quash an FIR registered against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh by the CBI, saying the central agency's probe was ongoing and any interference by the court at this stage was uncalled for.

A bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar also dismissed Deshmukh's argument that the contents of the FIR against him did not disclose any actual commission of offence.

Deshmukh's counsel, senior advocate Amit Desai, had argued in the HC that even if the charges in the FIR were to be taken at face value, it would show that the NCP leader was 'merely making preparations to extort money'.

He did not actually accept such money, Desai said.

The bench, however, said, 'A faint attempt was made to draw home the point that, even if the allegations in the FIR are taken at their face value, they would, at best, indicate preparation to extort money and nothing beyond that.' 'A bare perusal of the complaint (registered at Mumbai's Malabar hill police station) and the letter of Mr Param Bir Singh (IPS officer) annexed thereto, would prima facie indicate that the petitioner (Deshmukh) allegedly identified the source from which the funds were to be collected, the probable number of such units, and the amount to be collected from each of them,' the HC said.

These alleged acts, therefore, could not be classified as mere preparation, the bench said.

The FIR was registered against Deshmukh and some unidentified persons on April 24 on charges of corruption and misconduct following a preliminary inquiry that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) conducted in compliance with a HC order.

The inquiry was initiated on the basis of a complaint lodged by lawyer Jaishri Patil in the aftermath of allegations of corruption levelled against Deshmukh by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh.

Deshmukh, through advocate Desai, had sought that the FIR registered against him on April 24 be quashed.

The NCP politician had claimed the ongoing CBI inquiry against him was illegal since the central agency had not taken prior sanction from the Maharashtra government to prosecute him.

Advocate Desai said the CBI had gone beyond the scope of the April 5 HC order that directed the central agency to conduct a preliminary inquiry based on the compliant lodged at the Malabar hill police station by lawyer Patil.

He said the CBI had delved into issues of the reinstatement of former assistant police inspector Sachin Waze, and transfers and postings of other Maharashtra police officers, even though these issues were not part of Patil's complaint.

Additional Solicitor Generals Aman Lekhi and Anil Singh, who appeared for the CBI, had told the HC that no sanction was required since, 'in indulging in corruption and misconduct', Deshmukh hadn't been discharging his official duties.

On the issue of prior permission, the HC held that since a constitutional court had ordered the CBI to conduct the preliminary inquiry, a sanction from the state government to prosecute Deshmukh was not required.

On the allegations that the CBI had breached the scope of the HC order on the preliminary inquiry, the bench said Patil's complaint had also attached a letter written by Param Bir Singh to Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray.

This letter mentioned the issues of Waze's reinstatement and transfers and postings. Therefore, the CBI was entitled to look into these issues with regards to Deshmukh's role into the same, the judges said.

'The aspect of transfer and posting of the police offcials cannot be said to be wholly unconnected with the subject matter of the iniuiry, ordered by the Division Bench,' the HC said.

It said these issues were 'inextricably intermingled' with the allegations against Deshmukh.

The court also dismissed Deshmukh's argument that the FIR against him was a 'classic example of enmity and politics' that aimed to tarnish his reputation.

Deshmukh had said the allegations made against him by Singh were based on mere 'hearsay or gossip'.

The, HC, however, said, 'We find it rather difficult to accede to the submission that the allegations in the letter of Mr Param Bir Singh, deserve to be discarded, at this stage, on the ground of being hearsay.' 'At the stage of consideration of the prayer for quashing the FIR this court is expected to look into only the allegations so as to find out whether an offence is prima facie disclosed or not? If the answer is in the affirmative, the truthfulness or otherwise of the allegations is a matter for investigation and trial,' it noted.

The bench said said the FIR revealed allegations of a very serious nature that did not warrant the court's intervention.

'The audicity of the submission that the FIR does not disclose a prima facie offence is belied by the hard facts,' the HC said.

'At the stage of investigation, when the truth is yet to be unearthed, this court cannot embark upon the inquiry into the correctness or otherwise of the allegations,' the HC said.

'We agree with the submissions of Mr. Lekhi that at this stage when investigation is underway any attempt to sieve through the material with a fine gauze to ascertain the existence or otherwise of the ingredients of the offences is uncalled for,' it said.

The HC said an FIR was 'not an encyclopedia' and hence, a detailed, and unfettered investigation into the allegations was required to unearth the truth.

'For the forgoing reasons, the petition deserves to dismissed,' the HC said.

The HC also refused Deshmukh's request to stay its judgement to give him time to file an appeal.

The CBI's FIR said Deshmukh had knowledge of the reinstatement of former API Waze, an accused in a case of bomb scare near the Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani, and the NCP leader used to exercise undue interference in transfers and postings of Maharashtra police officers. PTI AYA SP GK RSY RSY

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