‘Illegal’ phone tapping case: Clarify position if Rashmi Shukla will be named accused, Bombay HC tells state govt

The Bombay High Court Thursday asked Mumbai Police to clarify its position and place on record a progress report in the “illegal” phone tapping case registered by it and inform it whether senior IPS officer Rashmi Shukla and former commissioner of the state intelligence department (SID) will be named accused in the case.

A division bench of Justice Nitin M Jamdar and Justice Sarang V Kotwal was hearing Shukla’s plea that challenged the FIR, lodged in March under the Official Secrets Act, 1923, at BKC cyber police station, against unidentified persons for allegedly tapping phones and leaking confidential documents following a complaint by the SID.

The alleged tapping of phones had taken place when Shukla headed the SID. Currently, the additional director general of CRPF’s South Zone, she is posted in Hyderabad. BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had cited a letter purportedly written by Shukla to the then DGP about alleged corruption in transfer of police officers. The letter had also mentioned details of intercepted calls, with the Shiv Sena-led ruling coalition alleging Shukla tapped phones without permission.

Senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for Shukla, reiterated Maharashtra government’s action was arbitrary as they have not named her an accused in the case as per state’s affidavit and despite that acting with “vendetta” against her.

He added that Shukla has performed her duty as per the mandate given to her and maintained secrecy as per the law. “There is bias by the state of Maharashtra. Many steps are taken to derail the probe in the Anil Deshmukh case. There is a serious attempt to avoid judicial and CBI or ED scrutiny of these documents and it is a misconceived FIR,” he added.

Jethmalani sought quashing of FIR against Shukla and in the alternative, argued that since CBI is probing the corruption case, let it investigate “the other aspect of the matter”, and sought transfer of the Mumbai Police probe to the central agency.

Senior advocate Darius Khambata representing the state government said that the petitioner has “blown up the matter out of proportion”, while the content of the report or whether surveillance was authorised or not were not subject matter of the Mumbai Police probe. Khambata added that the petitioner has not been named as an accused yet and the police are only investigating the data leak aspect and Shukla’s plea be dismissed.

The bench then said, “If Shukla is not going to be named as accused at all and a probe is going on, why should we hear the plea? We are only on the point of wasting judicial time.”

The court then asked the police to clarify as to whether Shukla is going to be named as an accused. “Then, as and when she is named as an accused, she can move the court again. Please clarify the current position,” the bench said. The state had also assured the court that no coercive steps, including arrest, will be taken against Shukla till next hearing Monday, October 25.

Meanwhile, the state government did not continue its May 24 assurance that no coercive action, including arrest, would be taken against former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh who is seeking quashing of an FIR lodged against him by Thane Police under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

The state Wednesday expressed unwillingness to continue its statement in Singh’s plea, stating that as per reports, Singh is not traceable and it cannot continue the statement of protection from arrest. The High Court is likely to hear Singh’s plea on October 27.