Mumbai: Two senior Mumbai Police officers, whose names featured in former commissioner Param Bir Singh’s corruption complaint to the Maharashtra government against Anil Deshmukh, have clarified to their department that their visits to the former home minister’s residence last month were for official work and not in connection with any alleged malpractices.
Deshmukh resigned from his post Monday after the Bombay High Court ordered a CBI probe into Singh’s allegations against him, but the two police officers’ submissions could help the Nationalist Congress Party leader’s case.
Param Bir Singh had alleged, in a complaint emailed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari on 20 March, that as home minister, Deshmukh ordered policemen to collect Rs 100 crore from city bars, restaurants and other establishments. Deshmukh has denied any wrongdoing, calling the allegations false, and has challenged the high court’s order in the Supreme Court.
Singh’s complaint came three days after he was transferred to the low-profile post of Commandant General of Home Guards and Civil Defence on 17 March, ostensibly for his handling of the Ambani bomb scare case. The former commissioner has denied any wrongdoing in the matter.
‘Had gone to brief minister for questions in assembly’
ACP Patil and DCP Bhujbal stated that they were called by Deshmukh to his official residence Dyaneshwar for inputs, on 1 and 4 March respectively, to frame answers to certain ‘starred questions’ raised in the Maharashtra legislative assembly that was in session from 1 to 10 March. Starred questions are those to which a minister’s oral response is sought.
According to Param Bir Singh’s complaint, Patil and Bhujbal were allegedly called to Dyaneshwar on 4 March to discuss the collection of “Rs 40-50 crore” from the city’s 1,750-odd bar, restaurants and establishments. According to Singh, an aide of the minister had taken the DCP and the ACP aside, and told the latter that the home minister was allegedly “targeting a collection of Rs 40-50 crore” from bars, restaurants and other establishments.
ThePrint has accessed the two officers’ ‘voluntary’ disclosures, which were addressed to their superior authority, Mumbai Police JCP (Crime), Milind Bharambe. While DCP Bhujbal gave his submission to JCP Bharambe on 20 March, the same day Param Bir Singh emailed his complaint against Deshmukh, ACP Patil did so two days later.
Patil submitted that he had gone to Deshmukh’s official residence on 1 March regarding a ‘starred’ question on Thane’s hookah parlours. Other than this, he claimed he did not meet the minister before or after.
However, Patil did say that on that day, he bumped into Sachin Waze at the Dyaneshwar compound. Singh’s complaint had also mentioned Waze, the assistant police inspector arrested by the NIA on 13 March for his role in placing an explosive-laden Scorpio SUV near Mukesh Ambani’s residence ‘Antilia’ on 25 February, who is also under the NIA scanner in its probe into the alleged murder of the Scorpio’s owner, Thane businessman Mansukh Hiren, whose body was recovered from the Mumbra creek on 5 March.
Patil cited Waze as saying that he had briefed the minister regarding certain investigations, and also claiming that Deshmukh had enquired whether ‘Rs 3 lakh’ each were collected from the 1,750 restaurants and bars. “I am not aware if Waze actually met the minister or not,” Patil submitted.
Bhujbal, meanwhile, said on 4 March, he had gone to Dyaneshwar to brief the minister and his personal secretary and help them shape responses on certain starred questions related to the Enforcement department, which were scheduled to be raised in the assembly on 5 March. The Enforcement department deals with rules and procedures to be followed by commercial entities, including bars and restaurants.
Patil went on 4 March too, but didn’t meet minister
DCP Bhujbal added that on 4 March, he saw ACP Patil at the minister’s residence after his own briefing got over. He said he heard Patil tell the minister’s aide that the “information related to the establishments was incorrect”. Later, both the officers left in their own vehicles.
Patil also mentioned this sequence of events in his submission, saying he needed to meet DCP Bhujbal to discuss some routine official work, but he learnt that the latter had gone to Dyaneshwari for a briefing. He said Bhujbal called him over to the minister’s residence at around 8 pm, but when he reached there, he had to wait as the briefing involving Bhujbal was still going on.
Patil added that Bhujbal and the minister’s personal secretary then emerged from the briefing, and the latter asked Patil about an issue to do with establishments, to which the ACP responded that there was “no substance” in the information. The minister was not referred to in this conversation, Patil said.
What CBI is likely to do
As part of its preliminary inquiry, which is a step lower than an ‘investigation’, the CBI Thursday recorded the statements of four persons — Deshmukh, Singh, ACP Patil and advocate Jaishri Patil, one of the petitioners who had approached the Bombay High Court seeking a comprehensive CBI inquiry into the allegations.
DCP Bhujbal was also called by the CBI, sources in the agency said, and was expected to record his statement later Thursday evening.
Its sleuths are also likely to seek the versions of other officers who may have received similar illegal instructions as alleged, or been witnesses to meetings in which the alleged malpractices were discussed or occurred.
The CBI might also seek the version of Deshmukh’s personal staff, and will go through CCTV footage from Dyaneshwar pertaining to February and March this year and the visitors’ entry-exit logs, if any.
“By collecting all facts and evidence — whether oral, text-based or in audio-video form — we will ascertain whether the allegations have merit and there was a cognisable offence in the case warranting further action. The next steps will follow from there,” a CBI source said.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)
(This article has been updated with new information about the CBI questioning the individuals connected with the case.)