A Bench Justices SJ Kathawalla and SP Tavade of Bombay High Court, minutes before its authority as vacation Bench came to an end on Friday midnight, passed an order granting protection from arrest to former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh in a case registered against him in Thane.
The Bench passed a short order at 11.55 pm since at the stroke of midnight, the judges would cease to be vacation judges which would have forced them to adjourn the matter for Monday next week.
The matter was initially called out for hearing in the afternoon, when the Bench suggested that since the case was being heard by another bench which would be sitting from Monday next week, the same bench should ideally continue hearing the matter.
However, Senior Advocate Darius Khambata, representing the State government submitted that he had instructions to not extend his statement regarding affording protection from coercive action to Singh.
When the Bench suggested that they will order for an extension of such protection, Khambata stated that the State should be heard first before passing any order.
Accordingly the Bench took up the matter after 10.30 pm at the end of the board.
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Singh, argued that the FIR alleged commission of offences in the year 2015 and was belatedly registered after having failed to pressurise Singh to withdraw a complaint letter written by Singh to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray levelling corruption charges against former State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
Senior Advocate Darius Khambata appearing for the State, opposed the petition stating that until a cognizable offence is made out, the investigation ought to continue. He also said that Singh, if he wants to base his case on malafides, has to prove the same.
The Court heard the parties till 11.55 pm, and then requested the lawyers to stop arguing as from 12 midnight they will no longer be vacation bench judges.
It then passed an order granting protection to Singh from any coercive action.
The Court also clarified in its order that subject to the requisite permission from the Chief Justice, the registry could place the matter on Monday.
When the lawyers thanked the Court for a patient hearing, Justice Kathawalla passed a comment, that this hearing was only "because the State was inconsiderate to their (Court's) request for extension."
Senior Advocate Mahesh Jethmalani along with advocates Ravi Sharma, Gunjan Mangla, Chirag Shroff and Siya Chaudhary represented Singh.
The FIR against Singh and thirty-two others was registered based on a complaint by Inspector Bhimrao Ghadge at Akola. Singh has been charged for various offences including those related to criminal conspiracy, destruction of evidence and offences under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
The FIR was transferred from the Akola police station to Thane police in the last week of April, 2021.
Singh in his plea sought quashing of the FIR and also prayed for an order directing CBI to inquire into the criminal conspiracy and malicious attempts to pressurise him and others to thwart another CBI investigation initiated against Deshmukh based on a complaint lodged by one Dr Jaishri Laxmanrao Patil which itself was based on Singh's letter to Thackeray.
The Bombay High Court had given its green signal to that CBI probe.
Singh claimed after that CBI probe was initiated, he was subjected to multiple inquiries pressurise him and to force him to withdraw the complaint.
One such preliminary inquiry initiated against him by the Maharashtra government was challenged by Singh. The same will be heard on June 9, 2021.