MUMBAI: The vacation bench of Bombay high court on Friday granted interim relief to former Mumbai Police chief Param Bir Singh and restrained the state from arresting him till his quashing plea is part heard. The relief came at almost midnight.
“The state declined to continue its statement not to arrest Singh which expired on Thursday, till next week, on our suggestion in the afternoon,” said the bench of Justices S J Kathawalla and S P Tavade. Hence it began an extensive hearing on the matter after 10pm, after it had heard 60 matters.
“Since we would cease to be vacation judges at the stroke of midnight, we adjourn the matter to next Monday, subject to the registry obtaining necessary permission of the Chief Justice…” said the bench, while granting him interim relief.
The bench had asked the state, “Why is all this after Param Bir Singh had a fall out with the state government?” adding, “We are on the issue of malafide”. Khambata said the FIR against Singh is “very serious” and that and the SC has held that if offence is cognizable mere allegations of malafide is not enough to stay a probe or quash case.
Singh on Friday through his counsel Mahesh Jethmalani said the FIR against him by police inspector Bhimrao Ghadge was nothing but a “grossest subversion of a criminal trial” “manifestly malafide” and an “illegal attempt to reopen” cases against him pending trial.
Jethmalani said, “The entire FIR against Param Bir Singh is no more than Ghadge’s defence manifestly set out.” He said “ludicrous cases” are being filed against Singh for his letter against Anil Deshmukh.
The HC was hearing Singh’s petition to quash Ghadge’s FIR under the Atrocities Act and for urgent interim relief to stay the probe and prevent his arrest. Jethmalani said a stay can be granted as the “police have no right to investigate, given a jurisdictional bar.”
Jethmalani said the “state’s entire exercise of investigation is malafide. The state wants its pound of flesh. The entire investigation must be stayed”.
Khambata said in law what Jethmalani argued is utterly misconceived.
“The FIR clearly discloses cognizable offences and under the Atrocities Act,” said Khambata.
Advocate S B Talekar for Ghade said his client is the “victim” here. The HC said “that is what we are examining.”
After the order when the counsel heaped their gratitude for the late night hearing, the HC said, “It is because the state was inconsiderate and unreasonable in not accepting our request.”
Jethmalani said Ghadge was essentially using all his ‘defence’ to the four cases filed against him in 2015 which he said were at the instance of Singh and a 2016 attempt to murder case, which is now pending appeal against his acquittal, as an FIR against Singh. The four cases have culminated in chargesheets and charges framed against Ghade, he said. They cannot be reinvestigated in this fashion, he added.
For the state, former advocate general Darius Khambata said he cannot extend his earlier statement of not arresting Singh, any further. Khambata said if the court is going to grant him relief, he may be heard, and said he would point out to the law to oppose quashing of the FIR against Singh.
Jethmalani said Ghadge had earlier last January petitioned the HC making allegations against Singh on the same issue that is now the FIR filed on April 29, almost a week after the CBI filed its FIR against Deshmukh. He also read out part of a transcript between Singh and DG Sanjay Pandey where the latter “was asking Singh to withdraw” his letter against Deshmukh. Jethmalani said Pandey later recused himself after the transcript was made public, to be the inquiry officer appointed by the State for preliminary enquiry into Singh under the Service Conduct rules.