Mumbai: Even as the special PMLA court took cognisance of the chargesheet filed against the former state home minister, Anil Deshmukh, the NCP leader has contended in his bail plea that the testimonies before the state-appointed Chandiwal Commission make it clear that the ‘No.1’ for whom dismissed policeman Sachin Vaze made illegal collections was former city police chief Param Bir Singh, not him.
The case against the Nationalist Congress Party minister had arisen from a letter written by a disgruntled Singh to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after he was shunted out as city police commissioner. In what came to be called a ‘letter bomb’, Singh had levelled serious allegations of extortion and corruption on Deshmukh, the then state home minister. Vaze, who, Singh had alleged, was Deshmukh’s right-hand man in the racket, had supported the allegations in his statements to the Enforcement Directorate (ED). However, before the single-judge commission of inquiry headed by retd Justice K U Chandiwal, Vaze had done a U-turn and said that he did not collect money for Deshmukh.
Referring to this and testimonies of other witnesses before the commission, Deshmukh said in his bail plea filed through advocates Aniket Nikam and Inderpal Singh, “It is evident that Number One is Param Bir Singh for whom Sachin Vaze used to extort money.” Among other testimonies he cited were those of ACP Sanjay Patil.
Deshmukh questioned the credibility of Vaze whose statements the ED is relying on and pointed out that there were a number of cases against him. He said Vaze had completely turned around in statements before the Chandiwal Commission and said that he (Vaze) had never met him or passed on any illegally collected money. Deshmukh stated that the ED was primarily relying on Vaze’s ‘blatantly false’ statements, which he had already refuted before the Commission.
He also described as ‘peculiar’ that the home minister of a state had been accused of collecting money by a low-rank officer with a dubious past. “State of Maharashtra has a strength of approximately 2.25 lacs police personnel with approx. 10,000 API’s across the state. It would be preposterous to even assume that such a low rank officer would have direct access to the Home Minister of the state surpassing all the hierarchy as claimed by Vaze,” he stated.
The politician called himself a ‘victim of gross persecution and harassment’ at the hands of vested interests. The case reflects a shocking abuse of power and authority by ED officials who have unleashed a reign of terror, he said. “If such adventurism which has been indulged into in the present case goes unchecked, it will spell a death knell to the fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution…” his application stated. In the course of his political career, he has become an eyesore for several vested interests, he added.
Deshmukh referred to his political career and said he is a mass popular leader hailing from a rural background and has led a life of dignity and honour. He has been an MLA five times from Katol constituency, he said, adding that he has toiled hard in life, starting from the grassroot level. The court has directed the ED to respond to the bail application on February 4.