Embroiled in controversy, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh on Sunday released a statement countering allegation of corruption levelled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, India Today reported.
Deshmukh raised questions on Singh’s act suggesting that he should have lodged a First Information Report on the allegations against him and initiated action on the matter. Deshmukh claimed that Singh’s failure to do so showed that the charges were made as an afterthought, India Today reported.
In a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Saturday, Singh had claimed that Deshmukh was extorting money from bars, restaurants and hookah parlours in the city. The former police chief wrote that suspended Crime Branch officer Sachin Vaze told him that the minister had asked him to collect Rs 100 crore every month through illegal channels. He levelled the allegations in a letter to Thackeray, days after being removed from his post.
Responding to this accusation, Deshmukh asked why Singh had waited over a year to make the revelation, according to India Today. He claimed that Singh raised the matter now only because he was transferred.
On Singh’s assertion that Assistant Commissioner of Police, Social Service Branch, Sanjay Patil was among the people who knew about the alleged extortion, he said that the conversation between the two officers on March 16 and 19 proved that the ex-Mumbai Police chief initiated it to build a case against the home minister, India Today reported.
On the matter of Singh not registering a case on the death of former MP Mohan Delkar in Mumbai, Deshmukh said that his actions were against the Criminal Procedure Code, as cognisance of a matter has to be taken at the place where the incident took place. Delkar, an independent MP from Dadra and Nagar Haveli, was found dead at a hotel in Mumbai’s Marine Drive area in February.
Deshmukh also raised objections to Singh’s claim that he was called by the home minister to his official residence “several times in the last few months”, India Today reported. Deshmukh said that being the home minister, he was empowered to call any officer for meetings. He said that Singh having reservations on the matter amounted to insubordination.
The Nationalist Congress Party leader further refuted Singh’s claim that his transfer was a routine one and not for his dubious conduct. He said that Singh was transferred under Section 22 N(2) of the Maharashtra Police Act, which specifically deals with “exceptional cases”, which in this case was the investigation into the matter of a bomb scare near the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani.
BJP demands transparent inquiry
Bharatiya Janata Party leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Sunday called for an inquiry by an “outside agency” into the controversy, PTI reported.
“Extortion is a crime,” he said. “A policeman indulging in it and that too at the behest of the home minister of the state is a very serious matter. It must be probed in an honest and transparent manner by an outside agency.”
He attacked the Maharashtra government, saying it was formed “with an intention to loot” and asserted that the BJP will protest over the matter.
The BJP leader also claimed there was a possibility that such incidents were taking place in other Maharashtra cities like Pune, Nagpur and Jalgaon. “What has been alleged in the letter could be just the tip of the iceberg, Maharashtra is a prosperous state,” Prasad said, according to PTI.
Prasad criticised senior Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar for not speaking on the matter and said that he needed to break his silence.
Pawar, however, did speak on the matter, saying that the allegations against Deshmukh were “serious” and that it was the prerogative of Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to take appropriate action in the case.
The NCP chief said the alliance leaders will have a meeting on Monday and take a decision on Deshmukh, who belongs to his party. He added the allegations made by Singh will have no impact on the Maha Vikas Aghadi government. Pawar is also scheduled to meet senior ministers and party leaders in Delhi on Sunday evening.
Police officer Sachin Vaze was suspended and sent into the custody of the National Investigation Agency for his alleged role in placing the explosives-laden vehicle at Carmichael Road, near the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani in Mumbai, on March 15. Two days later, Singh, who was handling the investigation, was transferred from his position to the low-key Home Guard department by the state government.
On March 18, Deshmukh had claimed that Singh’s transfer was not done on administrative grounds, but due to some “serious and unforgivable mistakes” made by his colleagues.
Former DGP says he won’t lead inquiry
Retired Director General of Police of Maharashtra Julio Ribeiro on Sunday said that he will not lead the investigation into the allegations against Deshmukh, The Indian Express reported. This came after NCP chief Sharad Pawar recommended that Ribeiro investigate the allegations.
“If I am asked, I will refuse,” he told The Indian Express. “Please understand that I am 92 years old. I do not have that ability to make such inquiries. Even if I had the ability, I would have refused because this is a very murky affair and it is not meant for people like me.”
Ribeiro added that the probe should be “made by Sharad Pawar himself” since Pawar headed the party. “They [the party] themselves know everything and they should take action. They will have to do it now because people are fed up with all this.”
He also refused to recommend someone he thought could lead the investigation. “I have no intention of recommending and putting good people in this situation,” he said. “It is very tricky situation as besides the political links, there are now murder allegations being brought in against officers of Mumbai Police. All of this is happening because of ambitious police officers and unscrupulous politicians.”