A bench of Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta said a probe by an independent agency was needed in the case in view of the involvement of high-profile figures of the level of minister and former police chief in the controversy. The bench said the minister and the police chief were hand-in-glove and working together till they fell apart. It said it was not a case of corporate or political rivalry but a “virtual right hand man” of the minister making allegations against him.
Senior advocates A M Singhvi and Kapil Sibal, appearing respectively for the Maharashtra government and Deshmukh, tried their best to convince the bench that the HC order was illegal.
SC agrees with Bombay HC order fully, brooks no argument
The Supreme Court has allowed a CBI probe into former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh’s allegations against former home minister Anil Deshmukh.
Senior advocates A M Singhvi and Kapil Sibal said the HC order was passed without giving an opportunity to the minister to counter the allegations and it will set a bad precedent if a probe is ordered on hearsay without credible evidence. They invoked the SC verdict in the Birla-Sahara diary case to emphasise that investigation against a person can be ordered only when there is prima facie evidence against him and not on the basis of a diary entry or allegations. Sibal said that the law must be equally applicable to all.
But the court dismissed their plea and was so convinced about the correctness of the HC order that the order was passed without hearing Param Bir Singh and other opposite parties. Senior advocates Harish Salve, Mukul Rohatgi and Ranjit Kumar did not have to argue the case against the state government and the former minister.
“Dehors the niceties of an elaborate order passed by the high court, we are of the view that the nature of allegations, the personas involved and the seriousness of the allegations do require an independent agency to enquire into the matter. It is a matter of public confidence, given the factual scenario. We may also add that what has been directed is only a preliminary enquiry albeit by an independent agency,” the court said in its order.
Singhvi and Sibal had contended that CBI probe was not required after Deshmukh’s resignation as home minister. However, the bench was not convinced and it also rejected the plea that the HC order against Deshmukh was wrong as he was not heard. Sibal contended the case should be heard by HC again and he be allowed to counter the allegations and bring on record many things not known so far. “Is this the process of law to order a probe when someone makes statements against others with no supporting documents and material. If that is the law then a probe will be conducted in every unsubstantiated allegation. There must be some evidence to show that a person is prima facie involved in it,” Sibal said.
The bench rejected their submission. “We are unable to accept the contentions of A M Singhvi that merely because the home minister has resigned after the impugned order would be a factor not to direct enquiry by an independent agency. The two personas held post of home minister and commissioner of police for a long period and the latter would be a post of confidence of the former. Further, we are unable to accept the contention of Kapil Sibal that even for directing a preliminary enquiry, the petitioner Anil Deshmukh is mandatorily entitled to be heard in his individual capacity even though the state government was represented and he was a minister at that time.”