With the Maharashtra state home minister, Anil Deshmukh being in the spotlight recently for corruption charges against him and the entire state government in turmoil, this has become a hot topic at present. Let us understand in detail about the controversy that arose, how it was handled, the present situation and the legal perspectives in relation to it.
What role does Anil Deshmukh play in the Maharashtra state government?
In Maharashtra, at present the Maha Vikas Aghadi party has formed the government. Uddhav Thackeray is the President of this party and hence, has taken the role of the Chief Minister of the state. Anil Deshmukh is also a member of the party and is the Home Minister of the Maharashtra state government. This means that he holds quite an important role. Anil Deshmukh had already become a 5-time MLA from Vidarbha, Nagpur. The main roles of a home minister are:
- Taking care of the internal order of the state
- Keeping notice of the law-and-order situation
- Handling the state police
Do all states have a Home Minister?
This is not compulsory where the Chief Minister can himself/herself discharge the functions of the Home Minister. Generally, a separate Home Minister portfolio is created in the states where there is a large administration issue.
What is the controversy all about?
Anil Deshmukh has been charged by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to have been involved in corruption and using a police officer to fulfil his interests. The allegation has been filed by the former Mumbai police commissioner, Param Bir Singh. He has reported that Anil Deshmukh had influenced police officer, Sachin Waze to have collected money from hotels and bars for him. Sachin Waze had already been arrested before. Deshmukh was stated to have asked Waze to collect nearly 100 crore rupees every month from such bars.
Due to the above act, Deshmukh is now in an extortion row. Extortion is when a person uses force or threatens to use force on another to coerce the person into delivering to him any property or other valuable security which could be converted into money. In this case, Deshmukh had used threats to Sachin Waze for which he was forced to collect such a huge amount illegally.
Even Devendra Fadnavis levelled charges against the state government as a whole as it had not taken any action even after getting reports of corrupt police transfers from Commissioner of Intelligence, Rashmi Shukla. Fadnavis also reports that Deshmukh was much involved in providing a high position in the police force to Waze after his illegal act.
Did Anil Deshmukh take any action after the charge was filed?
After this charge was filed by the CBI, Deshmukh wrote a petition to the High Court of Maharashtra seeking for interim relief from arrest till the charge was proved correct. The High Court denied the same on the ground that it would be improper to give any relief before the CBI was given an opportunity to be heard.
The State Government also filed a petition to remove certain areas in the FIR as it had an effect of government destabilization. This was also decided in the negative.
Although the High Court did not provide for the interim relief but it gave an opportunity to Deshmukh to try the vacation benches in order to seek the same.
What are vacation benches?
These benches are composed by the courts when the court actually goes for its vacation. These benches are specially created in order to hear urgent matters where some interim relief is sought. To approach such a bench, the case must clearly point out its nature and urgency. The Supreme Court also has such benches formed under Rule 6 of Order II of the Supreme Court Rules, 2013 by the CJI.
What is the present situation of the controversy?
Anil Deshmukh has already handed over his resignation letter to the state government. No details regarding the position in relation to the vacation benches option as given by the High Court.
The state government is in huge conflict of trying to save its image primarily after this controversy. Recently, the Congress ministers of the MVA party had conducted a meeting with the All India Congress Committee secretary, H. K. Patil about how the party was getting involved and degraded because of this controversy and its future effect.
Also, Sharad Pawar has been involved in the controversy as allegations are being levied against him that he is trying to protect the Home Minister by stating that Deshmukh had no link with the reinstatement of Sachin Waze in the police force even after his illegal act.
What are the key corruption offences of Anil Deshmukh?
- Public servant obtaining a valuable or something having monetary advantage by way of his official position through illegal means
- Public servant misappropriating any property entrusted to him and over which he has control, for personal use
- Where the real income and the actual resources held by the public servant are widely disproportionate
- Public servant showing favour or disfavour to another official as a tool to influence the official in doing an illegal act
- Where the public servant promises to give another official an undue advantage in lieu of his doing an illegal act or a public act improperly
What are the Acts under which Deshmukh can be held liable?
There are several laws in India that is either entirely meant to stop corruption or have relevant sections dealing with corruption. Out of them certain sections have the ability to be used against Deshmukh. They are:
- Indian Penal Code, 1860-
- Section 409: Criminal Breach of trust. This would apply as Deshmukh had misappropriated the money over which he had control for personal use. This may not apply very directly but could be used as an argument.
- Section 383: Extortion. This would apply as Deshmukh had coerced Sachin Waze to collect the money by way of threat to use force or any other influence.
- The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988-
- Section 13: This section would directly apply. It talks about criminal misconduct wherein a public servant has obtained any pecuniary advantage by illegal means and by abusing his position as a public servant. It would also apply where the public servant is holding office and has acquired any monetary benefit not in public interest.
- It must be noted that though Sections 7, 8 and 9 of this Act also is related to corruption charges but they would not apply particularly in this case as the money acquired by Deshmukh was not a form of gratification that he had received by way of increased remuneration.
- It also must be stated that this Act has been amended in 2018 wherein two specific changes were introduced-
1. Bribery was made a specific offence
2. Police officers were required now to take prior permission from the appropriate government to investigate the offence under the Act.
- The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002
- Money laundering means to show illegally appropriated money by way of corruption and other criminal offences as untainted property.
- One could be held liable under this Act only for offences listed under its Schedule.
- Under this Act, criminal misconduct by a public servant has been listed and hence, as per Section 19 of the Act, Deshmukh could be arrested.
- Apart from this the court may also make use of the United Nations Convention against Corruption as it was ratified by India in 2011.
Who are the authorities responsible for investigating corruption matters?
- Central Bureau of Investigation
- State Anti-Corruption Bureau
The above two have the jurisdiction to conduct inquiry under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code. CBI has central investigative power while the State ACBs have respective state investigative power.
- Central Vigilance Commission-
This is a supervisory body that sits above the CBI. Once it finds any issue related to corruption it can either report the same to its officers or to the CBI directly. It has no link with the State ACBs.
- Enforcement Directorate under the Ministry of Finance-
This is a body that deals specifically with corruption related to money laundering issues.
- Lokpal and Lokayuktas-
Lokpal is at the central level while the Lokayuktas are at the state level. Lokpal also reports any matter that it recognizes as related to corruption to the CBI.
- Apart from these, there is the Serious Fraud Investigation Office but this is not so relevant as it handles company related corruption issues and not that of public servants.
To conclude it can be stated that there may be a lot more issues related to this controversy that may crop up which may be in favour or against Deshmukh. Currently, the probability of the situation having a turnover is bleak. Also, with new issues other Acts can also apply and make the case stronger for CBI.
 Anil Deshmukh faces heat over corruption charges: Maharashtra Home Minister is in the eye of several controversies, FIRST POST (May 18, 2021, 12:50 PM), https://www.firstpost.com/politics/anil-deshmukh-faces-heat-over-corruption-charges-maharashtra-home-minister-has-been-in-the-eye-of-several-controversies-9456471.html.
 Allegations against Anil Deshmukh: Pawar trying to save Maharashtra government, says Fadnavis, THE ECONOMIC TIMES (May 18, 2021, 1:16 PM), https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/allegations-against-anil-deshmukh-pawar-trying-to-save-maharashtra-govt-says-fadnavis/articleshow/81618119.cms?from=mdr.
 Indian Penal Code, 1860 Section 409.
 Ibid, Section 383.
 The Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 Section 13.
 Ibid, Section 7, 8, 9.
 The Prevention of Money laundering Act, 2002 Section 19.
Author: Sriradha Rai Choudhuri from Hidayatullah National Law University, Raipur.