Former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh, missing since October, was today granted protection from arrest and asked by the Supreme Court to join investigations into extortion charges against him. His lawyer had said he is “not absconding” and is in India.
“The officer shall join investigation. But will not be arrested,” the Supreme Court. The court had last week refused to grant the former top cop any such protection, asking him sternly to first reveal where he is.
Param Bir Singh “does not want to abscond and does not want to run anywhere” but faces a threat to his life, his lawyer told the Supreme Court.
“It should not appear to the court that I am afraid. I have full faith in the system. I am ready to appear before a CBI Court. I am being hounded. There are six cases against me. I am suffering. Please grant me protection. I was the seniormost police officer and I am not going to run anywhere,” Mr Singh pleaded.
Mr Singh’s lawyer said the “moment he touches the land in Maharashtra he faces a threat from the Mumbai Police.”
“There are people like bookies and others who indulged in illegal activities and have filed FIRs against him,” he claimed.
The court questioned how a former police chief could feel threatened by a force he led.
“If the former police commissioner of Mumbai says that he faces a threat from the Mumbai Police then what kind of message does it send,” Justice SK Kaul asked.
Mr Singh faces at least four cases of extortion and so far, reports had suggested that he may have fled the country.
He told the court that he had first learnt from his juniors that Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh was “extorting money” and wrote to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asking for action. He said he went to the Supreme Court and sought a CBI inquiry.
“In March the DGP (Maharashtra police chief) asked me to withdraw my letter. He asked me to make peace with the Home Minister. I sent that communication to CBI and CBI registered a case against Deshmukh.”
In the previous hearing on Thursday, the Supreme Court had repeatedly asked for Mr Singh’s location.
“Where are you? Are you in this country or outside? In some state? Where are you? We will come to the remaining. First, we need to know where you are…No protection until we know where you are,” the court had said.
“You are seeking protective orders; nobody knows where you are. Suppose you are sitting abroad and taking legal recourse through power of attorney then what happens?”
Mr Singh’s lawyer had he argued that he can “get out of the hole” if he is “allowed to breathe”. The judges responded sharply: “Look at the lack of confidence in the system. He was the police commissioner, but we are not going to treat him any differently. He is seeking protection. Are you saying that he will come to India only if the courts protect him?”
Mr Singh last attended office in May and went on leave after that. The Mumbai Police told the court it had no idea where he was.
On November 17, a Mumbai court said Mr Singh could be declared an “absconder”, which means he would become a fugitive.