The CBI has registered a ‘preliminary inquiry’ against former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh – who quit his post on Monday after the Bombay High Court ordered a 15-day initial investigation into corruption allegations levelled by ex-Mumbai top cop Param Bir Singh.
A team of officials reached Mumbai this evening to begin the inquiry.
The central agency’s ‘preliminary inquiry’, which was announced late Tuesday night, will negate Mr Deshmukh’s approaching of the Supreme Court to ask for the investigation to be scrapped.
On Monday Mr Deshmukh cited “moral grounds” as he resigned from the Home Minister’s chair.
This was hours after the High Court – despite initially criticising Param Bir Singh for failing to follow due process by filing a FIR – directed the CBI to conduct a probe that, it argued, had to be carried out by an independent agency to safeguard the fundamental rights of the citizens.
Shortly afterwards the Maharashtra government, of which Mr Deshmukh’s Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is a member, asked the top court to cancel the High Court-ordered CBI probe.
They argued that the High Court could not order such a probe without giving the former Home Minister an opportunity to explain. It was also pointed out that the CBI itself was being headed an interim figure; a case related to that matter is being heard in another court.
In his plea to the High Court, filed March 25, Param Bir Singh accused Mr Deshmukh of asking police officers, including Sachin Waze – who has been arrested in connection with the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare, and has been linked to the murder of auto parts dealer Mansukh Hiran – to extort Rs 100 crore every month from bars and restaurants in Mumbai.
He also alleged corruption on Mr Deshmukh’s part with reference to police transfers and postings.
Mr Singh – who last month was replaced as Mumbai Police Commissioner – over “unforgivable” lapses in the Mukesh Ambani security scare probe, according to the state government – had earlier written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with the same allegations.
Mr Deshmukh and his Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) have denied all accusations; they say the charges are an attempt by Param Bir Singh to divert attention from those against him.
Either way, the controversy is also rife with political overtones, with the BJP – which was in power in Maharashtra before October’s election – gunning for the state government that is now led by its former ally – the Shiv Sena.