Bombay HC stays CBI probe against ATS

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court today stayed its order for a CBI inquiry against seven senior IPS officers including Maharashtra ATS chief Rakesh Maria for allegedly shielding a fellow officer accused of obtaining a law degree without appearing for the practical examination.

A division bench of justices V M Kanade and P D Kode stayed its own order of February 27 this year directing CBI to initiate inquiry against the seven officers. The order was stayed for a week following a review petition filed by Additional Commissioner of Police Sanjay Saxena, one of the seven officers.

The court had ordered the probe on a petition filed by Chitra Salunkhe, former vice principal of Siddarth Law College, who had alleged that K L Bishnoi, a 1985-batch IPS officer, cleared his final year LLB with the help of the then acting principal I A Inamdar without actually appearing for the practical examination held on March 12, 2005. Salunkhe had lodged complaints against the duo and, acting on her complaint, the seven IPS officers had conducted an inquiry.

Saxena`s advocate Amit Desai today argued that the allegations levelled by Salunkhe were comprehensively inquired into by various investigating agencies. Advocate General Darius Khambata, appearing for the state government, argued that no attempt was made to shield any officer and that inquiry was conducted into every aspect. "The police should have placed before the court these aspects. The order passed by the court directing CBI inquiry can have a demoralising effect on the police," Khambata said.

The court while staying the CBI inquiry till April 12 directed Salunkhe to file a reply to Saxena`s petition. The court, however, expressed shock over the state of affairs and said, "It seems like the police has been ganging up and trying to strangle the noise of an honest citizen. This is alarming. The motto of Maharashtra police is to protect the innocent. It should not be the other way around." Stating that the high court had all powers to protect anyone who is being harassed by a police officer, Justice Kanade said, "We have not said that the officers are guilty. We have only directed for inquiry."

Apart from Maria, the officers, who were to face CBI probe, are Additional Directors General of Police Pankaj Gupta and Mohan Rathod, Additional Commissioner of Police Sanjay Saxena and three Deputy Commissioners of Police – Naval Bajaj, Brijesh Singh and Vishwas Nangre-Patil. Salunkhe had approached the High Court alleging that all the seven IPS officers had submitted false reports to their superiors in order to shield Bishnoi.