The Bombay high court on Thursday dismissed a petition filed by IPS officer Param Bir Singh seeking to quash inquiries initiated against him by the Maharashtra government, and said he can approach the Central Administrative Tribunal.
A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar held that it was a service matter, and rejected his claim that the government's action was a consequence of his allegations of corruption against then Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh.
After he was shunted out as Mumbai police commissioner in March 2021 in the aftermath of the 'Antilia bomb scare case,' Singh, in a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, leveled corruption allegations against Deshmukh.
“The petitioner alleges that the actions were initiated with a view to give a counter-blast to the outcome of the petitions instituted by the petitioner (seeking Central Bureau of Investigation probe against Deshmukh). This claim...prima facie, does not hold ground in respect of the action initiated against him on the basis of the complaint of (police inspector) Anup Dange,” the high court said in its order.
Inspector Dange had made a complaint of corruption against Singh in February 2021, before the Antilia bomb scare incident, the judges noted.
If Singh approached the right forum, his plea should be heard and decided without any prejudice to the present order, the court added.
His main grievance was about the preliminary inquiries started against him, and these issues "can legitimately be agitated before and adjudicated by the Central Administrative Tribunal,” the court said.
Only the CAT is empowered to delve into the legality, propriety and correctness of the government's action in this case, it held.
Singh had challenged two orders of the Maharashtra government initiating preliminary inquiries against him -- one for alleged dereliction of duty and misconduct and second for alleged corruption.
The first order was passed by then home minister Deshmukh on April 1 and the second was passed on April 20 by current state Home Minister Dilip Walse-Patil.
The state government had opposed Singh's petition, contending that it was purely a service matter.
The issues raised by him were squarely covered by the Administrative Tribunals Act, government's counsel Darius Khambata had argued.
Also, the original two preliminary inquiries challenged in the plea did not stand anymore after Director General of Police Sanjay Pandey, who was to conduct them, withdrew himself following allegations leveled against him by Singh in the high court petition, the lawyer said.
The government later ordered fresh inquiries, one headed by the director general of the state Anti-Corruption Bureau and another by the additional chief secretary (planning), Khambata said.
Singh's counsel Mahesh Jethmalani argued that the preliminary inquiries were set up hastily and without application of mind, and were nothing but vendetta after Singh complained against Deshmukh.
In his petition, Singh had also alleged that DGP Pandey told him that the enquiries were the fall-out of his allegations against Deshmukh, an NCP leader.
Singh was transferred to the Home Guard after Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze was arrested in the case of an SUV with explosives found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's house, 'Antilia', and the subsequent suspicious death of businessman Mansukh Hiran.