Seeking a probe by an independent committee headed by a retired judge, the Maharashtra government has raised objection to Subodh Jaiswal heading the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is probing the allegations against former home minister Anil Deshmukh.
“He (Jaiswal) is potentially the subject matter of the investigation and he is heading the CBI. This is a case of the investigator (who) is also the investigatee,” said senior counsel Darius Khambata, appearing for the state government.
A division bench of Justices Nitin Jamdar and Sarang Kotwal was hearing a petition filed by the state government challenging the summons issued to Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and DGP Sanjay Pandey in connection with its probe against Anil Deshmukh. The government has also sought stay on Jaiswal’s appointment as CBI Director.
Refusing to grant the prayer, Justice Jamdar said: “If we grant the prayer, we will be virtually commenting on the merits of the case.” The HC has asked the CBI to file its reply by October 28.
Following an HC order of April 5 this year, the CBI had conducted a preliminary inquiry and registered an FIR on April 21 into allegations of misconduct and corruption made by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh against Deshmukh.
During the course of the investigation, the CBI issued summons to Kunte and Pandey asking them to appear before its Delhi office.
At that time, Jaiswal was Director General of Police and a part of the Police Establishment Board and thus, a party to several of the transfers and postings of state police officers that are now being probed by the CBI. He was appointed as the Director of the CBI on May 26, 2021.
Stating that Jaiswal should be considered as a potential accused in the central agency's ongoing probe, Khambata said that he (Jaiswal) had approved the recommendations for transfers and postings as DGP during Deshmukh's tenure as Maharashtra Home minister.
Khambata argued, “A CBI probe is ongoing into transfer and postings of state police officers made during former home minister Anil Deshmukh's tenure. Then the next in line (to be probed) is the Director General of Police, who is the fulcrum, who is at the heart of the issue of transfers and postings. So having the former DGP head the investigation is like having Anil Deshmukh investigate it himself.”
Khambata argued that the HC has transferred the probe to the CBI saying that it expected “an unbiased, fair and impartial” investigation.
He showed the court the minutes of one of the meetings of PEB where Jaiswal had approved transfers of several police officers. “Who knows whether he himself recommended the transfers? It’s a matter of investigation,” added Khambata.
Under the circumstances, shouldn’t the CBI question Jaiswal as to why approved these transfers and postings? Asked Khambata. “But then how will a junior CBI officer question his own Director? Even in theory, it is absurd. And it boggles my mind that a potential accused is heading the agency. Its antithesis of an unbiased investigation,” added Khambata.
The senior counsel further said that Jaiswal, who is known to be an “upright officer”, must himself say that the CBI cannot go on with its probe.
He further added, “The state government is concerned because they (CBI) has summoned my (state’s) chief secretary and my highest police officer. What is going on? Is this a fair investigation? Unless they (CBI) put on affidavit that they have sent summons to Parambir Singh and to Subodh Jaiswal.”
Khambata urged that a retired judge or anyone else be appointed to head the probe against Deshmukh. He also sought that the HC monitor such probe to ensure that it remained fair.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta and Additional Solicitor Generals Aman Lekhi and Anil Singh, appearing for the CBI, opposed the state's plea and said that the central agency wanted to file its reply.
Lekhi said, “The state's stand is disingenuous. It is a misconceived petition to delay and derail the investigation.”