08 Apr 2021: SC dismisses Maharashtra government, Anil Deshmukh's plea against CBI probe
The Supreme Court on Thursday backed a Central Bureau Investigation (CBI) probe against former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
The court rejected petitions filed by the Maharashtra government and Deshmukh, deeming the corruption allegations against the former Home Minister "serious."
Earlier this week, the Bombay High Court had ordered a CBI probe into the allegations against Deshmukh.
Here are more details.
Case: 'Independent probe required given serious nature of allegations'
A two-judge bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta noted, "Given the serious nature of allegations, and the personas involved, the matter does require an independent agency to investigate the matter," Live Law reported.
"We may also note that what has been ordered is only a preliminary inquiry. Therefore, we are not inclined to interfere with the impugned order," the bench added.
Fact: 'Nature of personas, seriousness of allegations, warrant CBI probe'
Justice Kaul reportedly said during the hearing, "The nature of personas involved in the case, and the seriousness of the allegations, warrant a CBI investigation," adding that the two personas involved held high positions and were working together.
Arguments: Deshmukh's plea challenged Bombay HC order on following grounds:
Deshmukh's plea argued that the court did not take into account that the Maharashtra government has revoked the general consent given to CBI.
The court did not allow Maharashtra Police to respond to the allegations, the plea argued, adding that the court did not consider that former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh only raised the allegations immediately after his transfer.
Fact: CBI inquiry only ordered in exceptional circumstances: Plea
Further, the plea argued that a CBI inquiry is ordered under Article 226 in exceptional circumstances after the failure of state police is demonstrated. It said no opportunity was given to the Maharashtra Police to deal with the matter.
Court proceedings: Deshmukh's lawyer said allegations have 'no evidentiary value'
Appearing for Deshmukh, advocate Kapil Sibal said the allegations are based on "hearsay" and have "no evidentiary value." Deshmukh should have been heard before the HC order, he argued.
The SC responded, "It is not an enemy of yours who has made the allegation. The man was almost your right hand."
The SC also asked Sibal what was the harm in a preliminary inquiry.
Fact: You cannot pick and choose probing agency: Court to Deshmukh
When Sibal said that he would not object to a probe by the HC or the SC, Justice Kaul said, "You cannot pick and choose the agency." Sibal argued no democracy will be able to survive if investigations are ordered on such flimsy grounds.
Court proceedings: Maharashtra government raised point of federalism
Appearing for Maharashtra, advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi argued that the CBI probe was not needed since Deshmukh was not the Home Minister of Maharashtra anymore.
To this, Justice Hemant Gupta observed that Deshmukh had only resigned after the HC order was passed.
Singhvi also raised the concern of federalism, as a central probing agency was investigating a matter in the state.
Fact: You can't say probe affects federal structure: Judge
According to Bar and Bench, Justice Kaul responded, "...Looking at the personas involved and the seriousness of allegations, an independent inquiry is called for. You can't say it affects the federal structure. This does not happen every day."
Background: Singh raised allegations after transfer to low-key post
As the high-profile investigation into the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case proved embarrassing for the Maharashtra administration, Singh was transferred as Mumbai Police chief to a low-key post.
Days later, he claimed he was "scapegoated" and accused Deshmukh of running a corruption racket with cops and interfering in police cases.
He had then moved the Bombay HC seeking a CBI probe against Deshmukh.