SC grants Param Bir Singh protection from arrest, asks him to join probe

While granting him protection from arrest, SC asked former Mumbai top cop Param Bir Singh to join the probe into the extortion cases.
SC on Monday protected former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh from arrest in alleged extortion cases (HT file photo)
SC on Monday protected former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh from arrest in alleged extortion cases (HT file photo)
Updated on Nov 23, 2021 01:41 AM IST
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By, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The Supreme Court on Monday protected former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh from arrest in alleged extortion cases after the IPS officer said he is “very much in the country” and is willing to submit to a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or any agency other than Maharashtra police.

A bench headed by justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul sought responses from CBI and the Maharashtra government on Singh’s plea to transfer investigation of six first information reports (FIRs) from Mumbai police to the CBI, and fixed the matter for hearing next on December 6.

The bench, which also comprised justice MM Sundresh, asked Singh to join the investigation by Mumbai police in the meantime, but made it clear that he would not be arrested.

During the proceedings, the court noted that the matter has become “curiouser and curiouser in the battle between then home minister (Anil Deshmukh) and then Mumbai Police Commissioner (Singh)”.

“A former police commissioner apprehends threat to his life...he cannot repose faith in the police force he was once heading...we wonder what would happen to a common man and what kind of faith they will have on police,” stated the bench.

Singh (56), the second most senior Indian Police Service (IPS) serving officer in Maharashtra, was declared a proclaimed offender by a Mumbai court on Wednesday last week after he remained elusive since March this year and did not show up before the trial court despite several notices and warrants issued against him.

On Thursday, the top court directed Singh to disclose his whereabouts while making it clear that it would not entertain his petition for protection against arrest until his location is known. His lawyers sought time from the court to come back with details of his location.

On Monday, senior counsel Puneet Bali, appearing for Singh, started his submissions by intimating the bench that Singh is “very much in the country” but was staying away from Maharashtra since he apprehended threats to his life from the Mumbai police.

“We wonder what kind of a message you are sending? You are raising apprehensions against the same police force you were once heading. And you also don’t want to submit yourself to investigations,” responded the bench.

To this, Bali said Singh is not running away from investigations but only wants a free and fair probe, which is not possible if Mumbai police continues registering the FIRs on complaints made by “bookies and extortionists” against whom Singh acted against in the past.

“I am seeking protection as a whistle-blower. All hell has broken loose after I made the complaint against the then home minister (Deshmukh) collecting bribe money from pubs and bars,” argued Bali.

He also adduced a transcript of Singh’s alleged conversation with Maharashtra director general of police (DGP) Sanjay Pandey that purportedly recorded Pandey advising the police officer to withdraw his complaints against Deshmukh if he did not wish a spate of criminal cases to be slapped on him.

“And this is what that has exactly happened. People who I acted against as a police officer have now emerged as complainants, and one after the other, six FIRs have been lodged against me. I am not running away from probe. I will appear before any officer of CBI within 48 hours. I will appear before any CBI court too. But how do I trust the state government?” Bali asked on behalf of Singh.

The lawyer further faulted the Bombay high court order, contending Singh could not have gone to the central administrative tribunal (CAT) because he was not fighting a case on a service-related matter, but was seeking an independent probe. “How can CBI decide only Deshmukh’s case when all this is interlinked? They have to be investigated by the same agency,” added Bali.

The bench recorded Bali’s submissions in its order while noting that the question that has to be examined is whether the investigation of cases against Singh should also be handed over to CBI ; in April, the top court paved way for a CBI probe against Deshmukh in the corruption case.

“The stand of the state and CBI is also unknown because the high court decided only the preliminary issue and dismissed the petition. Prima facie, this may not be a proper course of action,” stated the court order, issuing notices on Singh’s petition.

The bench was hearing a plea against a September 16 judgment of the Bombay high court which dismissed the petition filed by Singh challenging two preliminary inquiries initiated against him by the Maharashtra government.

As he remained absconding for several weeks, Mumbai’s additional chief metropolitan magistrate court declared Singh a proclaimed offender on Wednesday, allowing an application filed by Mumbai police’s crime branch. The crime branch is investigating an August 20 extortion case registered in Goregaon in northwest Mumbai. The FIR named Singh, dismissed assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze and civilians Sumeet Singh, Alpesh Patel, Vinay Ramnarayan Singh aka Bablu, and Riyaz Bhati for extortion.

The complainant, restaurateur Bimal Agarwal, alleged that the accused extorted 11.92 lakh from him by threatening to register cases against two of his outlets – Boho Restaurant and BCB Bar. Once it took over the investigation, the crime branch arrested Vaze, Sumeet Singh and Alpesh Patel.

The Param Bir Singh, Anil Deshmukh saga began with the Antilla bomb scare case, where a SUV with some gelatin sticks was found near the residence of billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani. Singh was transferred for his mishandling of the case, and soon after wrote a letter to the chief minister alleging that Sachin Vaze, the policeman who is the main accused in the Antilla case, was asked to raise 100 crore a month by extortion by Deshmukh. The investigation against Deshmukh was sparked by his claims and petitions based on them.

On Thursday, the same bench dismissed a petition filed by former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, seeking a direction to CBI to produce its inquiry reports relating to the corruption case filed against him.

“Should we entertain this petition just because this person has been a minister? There has to be something extraordinary warranting an interference by this court in an ongoing investigation,” the court observed at the time.

In his petition before the Supreme Court, Deshmukh also asked for constitution of a special investigation team for a “fair and independent” probe into the corruption and bribery charges against him.

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Friday, January 28, 2022