The Supreme Court is likely to hear on Monday the CBI's appeal challenging the Bombay High Court order granting bail to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader and former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh in a corruption case.
A bench comprising Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices V Ramasubramanian and JB Pardiwala would consider the plea of the probe agency against the high court’s bail order.
On January 20, the matter could not be heard as Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, who is representing the central probe agency, was arguing before another bench in some other matter when the case was called out and later the hearing got adjourned to Monday.
The probe agency had in December last year approached the Supreme Court challenging the Bombay High Court order granting bail to Deshmukh in the graft case.
The high court had on December 12 granted bail to the 73-year-old NCP leader but said the order will be effective after 10 days, as the Central Bureau of Investigation sought time to challenge it in the apex court.
The high court had said except for dismissed police officer Sachin Waze's statement, none recorded by the CBI indicated money was extorted from bar owners in Mumbai at the behest of the politician.
In its plea filed in the top court, the probe agency has claimed the high court committed a "grave error" in granting bail to Deshmukh disregarding the serious objections raised by the CBI both on the merits of the case as well as the effect his bail will have on the continuing investigation.
"The high court failed to appreciate that economic offences are required to be treated as a separate category of offences and bail in such offences is not required to be granted as a routine matter. Usually, socio-economic offences have deep-rooted conspiracies affecting the moral fiber of the society and causing irreparable harm, need to be considered seriously," it said.
The CBI claimed the high court failed to appreciate that the charge sheet filed by the agency does not merely rely on the statement of Sachin Waze, an accused-turned-approver, but is also based on other material evidence which establishes the commission of a cognizable offence by Deshmukh.
"The High Court failed to appreciate that ascertaining veracity or otherwise of any statement of a witness is a matter of trial and the statement ought not to have been discarded at the stage of deciding on the grant of bail to the respondent," it said.
The agency claimed, "The High Court failed to appreciate that the version of Sachin Waze, accused-turned-approver, is corroborated by WhatsApp chats exchanged between Param Bir Singh (PW (prosecution witness)-30) and Sanjay Patil (PW-24) to the effect that money collected from the bar and orchestra owners was at the instance of the respondent (Deshmukh)."
It said the high court committed an "error" in holding that the evidence in the form of testimony of Waze cannot be the ground to prolong Deshmukh's custody.
The CBI said in its plea the high court also failed to appreciate that despite demitting the office of the home minister of Maharashtra, Deshmukh holds "considerable clout" in the state.
"There is every likelihood that he will command his authority by his high-level political associations and connections. Thus, grant of bail to the accused respondent would be detrimental to the morale of already named witnesses and would be an impediment for prospective witnesses to come forward," it said.
As an interim relief, the CBI has sought an ex-parte stay on the high court order pending a hearing of the plea filed in the apex court.
Deshmukh had earlier approached the high court after a special CBI court rejected his application for bail which he had both on medical grounds as well as on merits.
The veteran politician was in jail since November last year after his arrest by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a money laundering case. He was later arrested by the CBI in the corruption case.
Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh had in March 2021 alleged that Deshmukh, the then-home minister, had given a target to police officers to collect Rs 100 crore per month from restaurants and bars.
Former assistant police inspector Waze, arrested in the 'Antilia' bomb scare case of March 2021, too, had levelled similar allegations.
The high court had in April 2021 directed the CBI to carry out a preliminary inquiry. The CBI, based on this inquiry, registered an FIR against Deshmukh and others for alleged corruption and misuse of official power.