The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh to approach the Bombay High Court on his petition seeking a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the corruption allegations he levelled against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, Bar and Bench reported.

A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and R Subhash Reddy said the matter is “quite serious” as it affects the administration at large, according to Live Law. “It appears lot of material has come in public domain due to personas falling apart,” the court said.

The court asked Singh’s counsel why a petition was filed before Supreme Court under Article 32 rather than an Article 226 plea before the High Court. Article 32 affirms the right to move the Supreme Court if a fundamental right is violated, while Article 226 allows the High Courts to issue certain writs.

In his petition filed on Monday, the former police commissioner had said he approached the Supreme Court directly under Article 32 as the Maharashtra government has withdrawn the general consent given to the CBI to conduct inquiries in the state.

The judges also questioned why Deshmukh, against whom the petition has been filed, was not even made a party to the case.

Advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for Singh, told the court that he will move the Bombay High Court on Wednesday itself. “It is a matter of serious proportions including entire state administration,” he said. “The entire state and country is rocked. The scandal knows no bounds.”

Rohatgi added that Article 32 was invoked as “it is a matter of serious public interest for whole nation”, according to Bar and Bench. “A police officer is transferred citing administrative grounds but home minister himself said on TV that it is not an administrative transfer,” he argued.

The advocate said police reforms have not taken place in Maharashtra despite the Supreme Court judgment in Prakash Singh case.

The matter

In his plea, Singh had sought a CBI inquiry into the “various corrupt malpractices” of Deshmukh. He added that the investigation should be unbiased, impartial and fair.

The former police chief had sought protection from coercive action against him by the Maharashtra government. He had also challenged the state government’s March 17 order transferring him to the Home Guard.

On March 20, Singh, in a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, accused Deshmukh of 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.

Singh also accused the home minister of frequently interfering with police investigation in various cases.

Vaze was sent to the custody of the National Investigation Agency on March 15 for his alleged role in placing an explosives-laden vehicle outside the south Mumbai residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani last month. 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.

The allegations have landed the Shiv Sena, the Congress, and the Nationalist Congress Party government in a huge controversy. Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have claimed there was a possibility that such incidents of alleged extortion were taking place in other Maharashtra cities like Pune, Nagpur and Jalgaon.

Deshmukh had rubbished the allegations levelled against him by Singh, alleging that the police officer was trying to cover up after mishandling the Ambani case. After initially calling the charges against Deshmukh “serious”, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar had dismissed them on Monday. Pawar claimed that Deshmukh was hospitalised after testing positive for the coronavirus during the period that Singh mentioned in his accusations.

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister and BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis on Tuesday accused the NCP of covering its tracks to protect the state government, and alleged that party chief Sharad Pawar was made to falsely testify about Home Minister Anil Deshmukh’s whereabouts.