Sunday, January 29, 2023

Supreme Court refuses to quash CBI FIR against Anil Deshmukh

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a petition filed by former Home Minister of State of Maharashtra Anil Deshmukh, seeking to quash the FIR registered by CBI on charges of bribery, corruption and criminal conspiracy.

The bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and MR Shah heard Senior Advocate Amit Desai appearing on behalf of Anil Deshmukh and ASG Aman Lekhi on behalf of CBI on lengths over the interpretation of Section 6A of Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946 and 17A of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.

Mr Desai argued that the Bombay High Court order directed the CBI to merely hold a Preliminary Inquiry, limited only to the allegations made in the complaint of Dr Patil, which was restricted to allegations of extortion of money from the clubs, bars and restaurants, that too in accordance with law and not the alleged transfer of police officials and calling them home at his residence to plan criminal activity. He then argued that the jurisdiction of CBI to investigate in a state can only be exercised with prior consent of the state subject to Section 6 of DSPE act.

He also argued that CBI could not register the FIR in light of the Bar under Section 17A of the PC Act, which precludes a police officer from conducting any inquiry or investigation into any offence allegedly committed by a public servant, where the offence is relatable to any recommendation made or decision taken by the public servant in discharge of his official duties, without the previous approval of the state government because the protection envisaged under Section 17A is in consonance with the intention of the legislature over the last several decades, to protect a Public Servant from false, frivolous and malicious prosecution.

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He then argued that the FIR is based on inquiry conducted on extraneous consideration and allegations not forming part of the record, based on which the Division Bench had passed the Bombay High Court order. There are no offences made out by the allegations against the petitioner in the FIR.

The bench observed that the purpose of Section 17A PC Act is to protect a public servant from undue harassment by frivolous and vexatious complainants. When a court has applied its mind, it means that the accused is protected from such undue harassment.

Justice Shah further added that CBI was handed over the Preliminary Enquiry (PE) to ensure that the rights of the former Home minister are protected, otherwise what is the purpose of PE before registering an FIR.

ASG Lekhi relied on Yashwant Singh and others judgment and argued that the question of 17A of PC act is not applicable in a situation of a court- ordered investigation. He further stated that no enactment can exclude or curtail the power of the constitutional court. That is the basis of ML Sharma Judgment and Bombay High Court order. He further stated that there is no breach of Article 21. He also stated that without the order of the court there could not be any inquiry, now the inquiry is made, at his stage to say that the state government was to be asked for the same is not a right stand. He also relied on Lalita Kumari Judgment wherein it is stated that once cognizable offence is made out the FIR must be lodged.

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After hearing the arguments, the bench discussed the matter for a minute in person and Justice Chandrachud informed Mr Desai that the bench is going to dismiss the case and asked him whether he wants a short order or a detailed dismissal, to which Mr Desai sought time for two minutes to get his instructions from his client and stated that he is okay with a short dismissal.

The FIR registered by CBI is based on the preliminary inquiry directed by the Bombay High Court after taking cognisance of letter written by Parambir Singh (former Police Commissioner of Mumbai, DG of Anti-Corruption Bureau and Police Commissioner of Thane) addressed to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray, stating that Deshmukh is involved in extortion of money to the extent of Rs 100 crores per month from Bar and Restaurant owners by conspiring with several police officers.

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