Mumbai: At a time when the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh for alleged money laundering, IPS officer Param Bir Singh, who first made the allegations against Deshmukh, has told a judicial commission that he neither wants to show any evidence, nor does he want any cross-examination.
Singh, through his lawyer, made this submission to the Chandiwal Commission earlier this month, before the panel’s hearing on 28 October, ThePrint has learnt.
The one-person commission under retired Justice K.U. Chandiwal was constituted by the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra to probe Singh’s claims that Deshmukh ran an extortion racket in Mumbai.
“He (Singh) issued a submission through his lawyer late October saying I don’t want to lead any evidence or cross-examine anyone at all. So practically there is no evidence,” advocate Shirish Hiray, the Chandiwal Commission’s lawyer, told ThePrint,
A state government official added that the commission, which is scheduled to meet next on 22 November, will decide to act on whatever recourse is available to it after this submission.
Param Bir Singh’s allegations
In March this year, Singh wrote an unsigned letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari, alleging that then home minister Deshmukh had instructed his officers, including now-suspended cop Sachin Waze, to collect Rs 100 crore from Mumbai’s bars and restaurants every month.
The Enforcement Directorate (ED), which is probing a money laundering angle in the case, arrested NCP leader Deshmukh late Monday night, after 12 hours of questioning, and has got him in custody till 6 November.
The ED had also issued a notice to Singh to appear before the agency in July in connection with its money laundering case against Deshmukh, but the former Mumbai Police chief did not respond.
Singh’s resistance to the Chandiwal Commission
Singh’s explosive letter to CM Thackeray came three days after the IPS officer was transferred from the high-profile post of Mumbai’s commissioner of police, following alleged lapses in the investigation into the recovery of explosives outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s Mumbai home, Antilia. Singh was shunted to the unglamorous post of director-general, Home Guards.
Following his letter to the CM, Singh filed a petition before the Bombay High Court asking for an inquiry by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) into his allegations against Deshmukh. The high court ordered the CBI to conduct a preliminary probe, after which the central agency registered an FIR in the case, and the ED too registered an Enforcement Case Information Report (ECIR) to probe charges of money laundering.
Singh went on leave in May and has been untraceable since then. Although he has not appeared before any investigative or government authority, the IPS officer, through his lawyer, had in August filed a petition in the Bombay High Court challenging the scope of the Chandiwal Commission. His contention was that the scope had already been decided by the Bombay High Court, and he could not be compelled to present himself before the commission.
Advocate Hiray told ThePrint that Singh had appeared before the commission through his lawyer in April after the IPS officer was given the first notice to appear and explain his contentions.
“We served the notice to two addresses — the office of the Home Guards and to his Mumbai address. The office did not receive it, saying it didn’t have such instructions, so we emailed it to Param Bir Singh. The notice was duly served; Singh appeared through his lawyer and filed his response, which was by and large based on his letter to the CM,” Hiray said.
The commission issued summons on three occasions after that to Singh’s last known addresses — his Mumbai home address, the Home Guards office address, and his Chandigarh residence — after which it started levying fines on him, Hiray continued.
“My submission was to serve bailable warrant through a high level, so it was served through DGP. The DGP enacted a special team of CID. The team found one more address in Chandigarh. All known addresses were served the warrant, but there was no response, so a second bailable warrant was issued,” the advocate for the commission said, adding that Singh turned in the submission about not wanting to give any more evidence after the second warrant.
Despite summons, arrest warrants, Singh remains untraceable
Singh has multiple FIRs filed against him in Mumbai and Thane on extortion charges, and hasn’t responded to summons issued by the police in both the cities.
So far, Singh is facing two non-bailable warrants in Maharashtra, one by the Mumbai Esplanade court and another by a Thane court. In July, the Thane Police issued a lookout notice to prevent Singh from leaving the country.
A source close to the functioning of the Chandiwal Commission said the panel had levied a fine on Singh for his non-appearance before the commission despite several notices, and he was ordered to deposit the money in the CM’s Covid relief fund.
“We know that this amount has been deposited in cash. This means there is someone here who is in touch with Param Bir Singh and is acting on his behalf. If the government really wants to, it can look at the entries and try to trace this person,” the source said.
Earlier this month, the Maharashtra government also formally started the process of declaring Singh as an “absconder”, and sought the Intelligence Bureau’s help in locating him.
(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)