MUMBAI: The Bombay High Court on Thursday refused to pass any order on former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh's request for interim protection from coercive action in connection with an FIR lodged against him by the CBI on corruption charges.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and Manish Pitale directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to file its affidavit within a period of four weeks in response to the petition filed by Deshmukh seeking to quash the FIR.
Senior counsel Amit Desai, appearing for Deshmukh, sought for an interim order granting protection from any coercive action to the NCP leader. "The CBI can file its affidavit to the petition, but till then the petitioner should be protected," Desai said.
However, CBI counsel Anil Singh opposed it and said the agency was given a copy of the petition only on Wednesday and hence, it requires time to file its affidavit. The court then said the respondent (CBI) should be given an opportunity to respond to the petition.
"We cannot pass any orders without hearing the parties concerned. If there is extreme urgency, then you (Deshmukh) can move the vacation bench of the HC. You (Deshmukh) have that liberty," the court said. The bench said if Deshmukh moved the vacation bench, then he shall give 48-hour notice to the CBI.
Deshmukh filed the petition in the HC on May 3, challenging the FIR lodged by the CBI on April 21 under section 7 of the Prevention of Corruption Act, dealing with illegal gratification obtained by a public servant, and section 120(b)(criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.
In the petition, Deshmukh claimed the FIR could not have been registered without the state government's consent. The plea said the FIR was filed with a "biased, dubious and ulterior motive at the behest of those having political or other vendetta" against him.
It further said the FIR makes vague allegations and there is no case made out for illegal gratification.
The CBI had initiated a preliminary enquiry (PE) against Deshmukh on the HC's order on April 5, based on petitions filed by advocate Jayshri Patil and former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh, who levelled allegations of corruption and malpractices against the NCP leader.
Singh wrote a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray in March, alleging that Deshmukh had asked API Sachin Waze to collect Rs 100 crore as bribe from bars and restaurants in Mumbai every month.
Waze, currently under suspension, was arrested in March in connection with the National Investigation Agency's (NIA) probe into the case of recovery of an explosives-laden SUV near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's house in Mumbai and the subsequent murder of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran.
Param Bir Singh wrote the letter to the CM after he was shifted from the post of Mumbai police commissioner and appointed as the director general, home guards.
The CBI had questioned Deshmukh and conducted searches at his premises. The probe agency had also questioned Singh and others. Deshmukh, who has rejected the allegations levelled against him, resigned as state home minister on April 5 after the HC ordered the preliminary enquiry against him.