HC reserves order in Param Bir probe

Ex-Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh

MUMBAI: The Bombay high court on Wednesday reserved for orders an issue raised by the state and DGP Sanjay Pandey to the maintainability of ex-Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh’s challenge to preliminary enquiries, which he alleged were sought against him “hastily” on April 1 as “vendetta and retaliation” by then home minister Anil Deshmukh. The second letter for another preliminary enquiry (PE) is dated April 20.
For the state, former additional solicitor general Darius Khambata said the enquiries against Singh are for alleged breach of his service law, All India Service Conduct Rules of 1968. He said, “Now for any complaint, Singh thinks he has a cloak of immunity in law. The allegations against him are extremely serious. No one is above the law, not Singh, not anyone else.”
Khambata cited a Supreme Court judgment to argue that the HC must send Singh’s petition to the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT), the appropriate forum to hear service matters.
Pandey, appointed initially to conduct the PE, had recused soon after Singh approached the HC on April 30. On May 3, the state allotted two PEs, one in a complaint filed by a police officer Anoop Dange to the DG, Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and one to an additional chief secretary, hence nothing survives in the challenge against him, Khambata said. He said Singh’s plea was “essentially to remove the PE from purview of Sanjay Pandey on the ground that there are some conversations between the two, some of which are tape-recorded.”
Jethmalani said “it is not an administrative enquiry” and the “only purpose of appointing Sanjay Pandey to conduct it was to persuade me (Singh) to withdraw the March 20 letter to the CM Uddhav Thackeray accusing Deshmukh, others of corrupt malpractices” and on April 5, the HC, in another matter, directed a PE by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into his allegations against Deshmukh.
Jethmalani read out at length from transcripts of a April 18 taped conversation Singh and Pandey had where he said Pandey “offered to mediate” and asked Singh to withdraw his letter against Deshmukh. “Pandey clearly acted at the behest of state and this taped conversation shows the malafide of state…that in event Pandey proved to be unsuccessful, other cases would come up,” said Jethmalani, adding, “subsequent circumstances prove what the conversation, Pandey had said one case may be in offing.” Khambata intervened to say, “These are all unproven allegations.”
Jethmalani added, “Singh has not been summoned by either of these two enquiries till today. These were only to put a gun to his head. Now they have moved to other things like FIR.”
Jethmalani said Pandey recused because of taped conversations and the state was supporting Pandey, who has yet not responded to Singh’s petition and questioned how he was “still a DGP.”
Senior counsel Navroze Seervai for Pandey too said Singh’s petition be “dismissed at the threshold” as he said it is on the face of it “not maintainable.” “There is complete adequate alternative, equally efficacious remedy available to the petitioner, Singh.”
“The allegations against Pandey are entirely false. They are a tissue of falsehoods…wholesale suppressions. If for any reason Jethmalani convinces the court of the petition’s maintainability, we are ready with the reply,” he said.
The bench asked if a tribunal can go into alleged malafides. Seervai said “Pandey has a very honest record” and “this is nothing but a dishonest attempt to trap a person.” Seervai said Pandey is “ready to defend himself to the hilt.”
Khambata said the “enquiry started by the state indicates that an explosive device was found outside Antilia building and the issue is how did the CP (Singh) fail to control and supervise his subordinates. The other issue is that the March 20 letter was published in the media the same day, tarnishing the image of the state, thus he violated All India Service Conduct Rules..
Jethmalani it is clear that Singh is a “whistle blower” and hence he is being “harassed” by the state. The new enquiry officers are junior to Singh, which is not permissible, he added. Khambata disputed, but said the issue now is only whether HC can even hear the petition.

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