Pandey’s conversation with Param Bir shows state’s bid to shield Deshmukh: CBI to HC

The CBI, while responding to the Maharashtra government’s plea seeking a special investigation team (SIT) to probe the case pertaining to an FIR registered by the central agency against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh, said that Maharashtra DGP Sanjay Pandey was summoned to verify the transcript of a recorded conversation between him and former Mumbai CP Param Bir Singh, through which Pandey allegedly tried to advise Singh to withdraw his March 20 letter to the Chief Minister.

The CBI said the same was proof that the state was trying to protect Deshmukh and now trying to shield Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte and Pandey from recording statements, which was enough ground for Singh to be fearful of being victimised and arrested, resulting in him raising apprehension before the Supreme Court and in connection with the inquiries initiated against him by the state.

The state has sought direction to stay the proceedings arising out of the CBI probe and raised grievances against summons issued by the agency to Kunte and Pandey, claiming that “highest officers” are being harassed.

After the Mumbai Police issued summons to CBI Director Subodh Kumar Jaiswal to appear before the BKC cyber police station in connection with an FIR registered into the “illegal” phone tapping and data leak case, the CBI had issued summons to Kunte and Pandey, asking them to appear before it in regard to the Deshmukh case.

The government, while seeking constitution of an SIT under a retired HC judge, had last month said that as Jaiswal, also a former DGP of Maharashtra, was part of the Police Establishment Board (PEB) that was overseeing transfer and postings of police officers in question, the central agency cannot conduct an impartial and independent probe.

A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal on Tuesday continued hearing the state’s plea against the CBI probe and summons issued to the senior officials. The central agency had earlier told the HC that the plea was an attempt to scuttle and derail the probe and while Jaiswal was appointed as CBI director in May, the state did not raise its objections before the HC or Supreme Court and hence, the plea was filed belatedly.

Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Aman Lekhi representing the CBI raised questions over the state’s conduct and said that while the state government had claimed that the current CBI director was overseeing PEB meetings, he was merely part of the recommendations which were not final and decisions were taken by Deshmukh as then Home Minister.

Lekhi argued, “We have collected material to show several recommendations and decisions of the PEB were changed. It is a surrogate petition and the real actor behind it is Deshmukh, otherwise there is no scope for the state to give rejoinder to say the entire exercise is to target Deshmukh and that there is pre-conceived notion. The state is also pleading a case on behalf of two witnesses (Kunte and Pandey), who are just summoned and the government is shielding them by stalling the procedure despite court orders and creating roadblocks in justified probe which emanated from April 5 HC order,”

He added, “It is nothing but an attempt to taint investigation and target a certain individual through speculation and wishful thinking. There is no personal and vested interest in the probe. Their (state) claim of Jaiswal was appointed at the helm of CBI because Deshmukh was to be investigated is outrageous…”

“Pandey is required to be examined pertaining to his conversation with Singh post April 5 HC order, transcripts of which show that Pandey had tried to advise Singh to withdraw the letter written by him to the Chief Minister on March 20. Pandey and Kunte were summoned and sought to be examined in Mumbai as per their convenience. Their conduct of avoiding appearances and summons is unworthy of respectability,” Lekhi argued.

The CBI is likely to conclude its arguments on Wednesday.

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