A special Central Bureau of Investigation court in Mumbai on Wednesday remanded former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh to the Central Bureau of Investigation's custody till April 11 in a corruption case registered against him and three others, and ruled permission to take him to New Delhi for interrogation was subject to the opinion of an orthopedic doctor.
Deshmukh's lawyer opposed the CBI's plea for custody, arguing the Nationalist Congress Party leader was available for interrogation and arrest for the last one year (he was in judicial custody in a separate case since mid-November), but the central agency did not do anything all these months.
However, special Judge VC Barde, after hearing defence and prosecution's arguments, held Deshmukh's custodial interrogation was necessary in view of allegations made in the FIR and material presented by the CBI.
The court had on Monday remanded two former aides of the NCP leader -- Sanjeev Palande and Kundan Shinde and dismissed police officer Sachin Waze -- to the CBI's custody in the corruption case which related to allegations made by former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh.
Deshmukh was undergoing treatment at state-run J J Hospital and hence the probe agency could not take his custody along with the other accused. The senior NCP leader was discharged from the hospital on Tuesday evening and arrested by the CBI on Wednesday morning.
The septuagenarian politician was later produced before Judge Barde, who sent him to the CBI custody till April 11.
While seeking his remand, the central probe agency had sought the court's permission to take the accused to its head office in New Delhi for interrogation via "scientific techniques".
The judge, in his order, said, "Permission to take the accused to Delhi shall be subject to the opinion of an orthopedist from JJ Hospital."
Deshmukh's lawyer claimed his client dislocated his shoulder after he slipped in the jail bathroom and hence he was admitted to the hospital last week for treatment.
Pressing for the senior NCP leader's remand, special public prosecutor (SPP) Raj Mohan Chand, appearing for the CBI, said when the investigating officer went to jail for taking his custody (on Monday), it was found the accused had been shifted to the hospital without informing the court.
"This was done to avoid custody... this is not proper conduct on part of the accused," he said.
Giving a brief history of the case, the SPP told court that when the accused was state home minister, he exercised "undue influence" over police postings and transfers.
The CBI has alleged the accused had set a target of collecting Rs one crore per month from bars and orchestra owners in Mumbai through Waze. An amount of Rs 4.60 crore had been collected from them between December 2019 and February 2021, the probe agency said.
The probe agency sought Deshmukh's custody for 10 days, saying he is required to be confronted with other accused persons as well as some witnesses in order to "unearth the truth and to root out contradictions on vital facts in their explanations".
The investigation is at a crucial stage and Deshmukh's remand is very essential to unearth the deep-rooted conspiracy, it said.
Deshmukh's advocate Aniket Nikam opposed the probe agency's plea, saying it is “absolutely not tenable” in the eyes of law as it has been filed without following procedures laid down under the CrPC.
“They talk about the conduct of a person who is seriously sick. Let me talk about their conduct, for activities that happened in Maharashtra they have registered an FIR in New Delhi,” Nikam said.
Referring to the CBI's request for taking Deshmukh to the national capital for questioning, he said such pleading needs to be rejected at the outset considering the health condition of his client.
The defence lawyer questioned the delay in Deshmukh's arrest.
"I have been available to them since April 2021....Why didn't they arrest me then…When my bail plea is up for hearing in the Bombay high court in PMLA (money laundering) case, they have come to arrest us . It cannot be at their "whims and fancies," Nikam added.
When called upon by the judge, Deshmukh, in person, told the court, "Three to four days before the CBI came to seek my custody, I fell in the bathroom (of jail), dislocated my shoulder. I'm in excruciating pain.”
"Doctor came and checked, and said my shoulder was in bad shape, needed to be operated, but cannot be done now," the NCP leader said.
On the CBI's probe, the former home minister said, "Whenever they called me, I went to their office. Whenever they came for search and seizure, I have cooperated."
The court allowed the NCP leader's pleas seeking home food and presence of a lawyer during interrogation.
Deshmukh, Palande and Shinde, booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, were under judicial custody after being arrested last year by the ED in a money laundering case.
Waze was in judicial custody after being arrested by the NIA in the Antila bomb scare-Mansukh Hiran murder case. The respective courts (PMLA and NIA) had allowed CBI's plea seeking their custody in the corruption case.
Param Bir Singh had in March last year alleged Deshmukh had given a target to police officers to collect Rs 100 crore per month from restaurants and bars in the metropolis.
Deshmukh has denied the allegations.