Mumbai, July 23, 2021: Emphasizing on the nature of the duty which police discharge in a society governed by the rule of law, the Bombay High Court dismissed a petition filed by the Maharashtra government assailing portions of the FIR registered by the CBI against former State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh in connection with charges of extortion and malpractices.
The Division Bench of Justice SS Shinde and Justice NJ Jamadar observed that officers of the premier investigation agency must be fully allowed to take their responsibilities in investigation into the FIR.
Quoting Lord Denning’s judgment in the case of R. v. Metropolitan Police Commissioner [(1968) 1 All ER 763], the Division Bench reiterated that it is the bounden duty of the Commissioner of Police as well as every chief constable to enforce the law of the land.
The petition before the High Court sought quashing of two paragraphs in the FIR which pertained to transfer and posting of police officers and regarding the reinstatement of Additional Police Inspector Sachin Waze. The grievance by the State government was that the unnumbered paragraphs were beyond the mandate of the April 5, 2021 order of the High Court.
On the question of locus of the Maharashtra government to file the petition, the High Court opined that the order of investigation by the High Court “would not give a carte blanche to the investigating agency (CBI) to venture into any matter de-hors the subject matter of the proceedings before the High Court and thereby disturb the delicate balance of power under the Constitution”.
Responding to the apprehension of the State that the roving inquiry may demoralize the State police force, the Bench said the aspect of transfer and posting of police officers is essentially linked to the allegations of abuse of official position by the then Home Minister and his confederates.
“We were anxious to know as to whether CBI would investigate into the acts and omissions of the officers/ persons who might have had a role in the matter, apart from the named accused,” said the Bench.
Responding to the Bench, the Solicitor General assured the court about the integrity of investigation and submitted that the CBI would conduct the investigation dispassionately.
“Implicit in the allegation that funds were to be extorted from specified and vulnerable sources, is the element that there would be either no enforcement or laxity in enforcement of law. Moreover, the charge is of criminal conspiracy. It is trite that it is the unlawful agreement and not its accomplishment, which is the gist or essence of the criminal conspiracy,” the Bench said.
“In the backdrop of the nature of the allegations, whether the police officers were given particular posting and assignments, so as to exercise undue influence over them, and also reinstatement of Shri Vaze after 15 years, cannot be said to be matters which are beyond the purview of the inquiry ordered by the court,” added the Bench.
In light of the High Court’s earlier order, the Bench opined that the CBI could legitimately inquire into the aspect of transfers and postings of police officers, so also reinstatement of Sachin Waze in the police force after 15 years, to the extent those transfers and postings have nexus with alleged offences against the then home minister and his associates.
At the same time, the Bench clarified that the order could not be construed as giving an unfettered authority to the CBI to inquire into transfers and postings of the police officers generally, which does not reflect upon the alleged acts and conduct expressly attributed to the former home minister and his confederates.