The Bombay High Court on Friday granted interim protection from arrest till April 1 to senior IPS officer Rashmi Shukla in her plea against a phone tapping FIR lodged against her by Colaba Police.
Shukla said she would cooperate with the probe and attend investigating officer Police Inspector S R Mohite on March 16 and 23 from 11 am to 1 pm.
A division bench of Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Shriram M Modak was hearing Shukla’s plea against the Colaba FIR registered on March 2 for alleged tapping of phone calls of Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut and NCP leader Eknath Khadse.
Shukla’s plea filed through advocate Sameer Nangre claimed that the FIR has been lodged with political motive and she was being falsely implicated in the matter.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Special Branch) Rajiv Jain is the complainant in the case, in which Shukla is accused of tapping the phone calls of Shiv Sena’s Sanjay Raut and NCP’s Eknath Khadse.
The case has been registered earlier this month under Section 165 (public servant obtaining any valuable thing, without consideration, from a person concerned in any proceeding or business transacted by such public servant) of the Indian Penal Code and Section 26 of the Telegraph Act.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani and advocate Gunjan Mangla representing Shukla told the bench that in present matter, while the FIR is against the petitioner, details of other officials allegedly involved are not disclosed by the police.
Shukla further apprehended that despite the offence levelled against her being bailable, under the guise of seeking response from the petitioner, the authority may proceed against her and detain her. Jethmalani added that if petitioner is unable to respond or call investigating authority or her failure to attend authority would be adversely considered against her, therefore she should be granted interim relief till next hearing
Chief Public Prosecutor Aruna Pai for the state submitted that the probe is at an early stage and it will require the agency to fix responsibility against other officers to fasten criminal liability against them. Pai opposed the prayer for interim relief stating that the offences are bailable and there was no question of arrest at present stage. Pai added that while Shukla was given protection in the Pune case, she did not cooperate with the police.
The Court accepted Shukla’s undertaking through Jethmalani who said that she is ready to cooperate with the probe if certain dates are stipulated for her to remain present before authority.
Earlier on March 4, the High Court had granted Shukla, protection from arrest till March 25 following her plea seeking to quash an FIR lodged against her at Bund Garden police station in Pune. The Pune FIR is in connection with the alleged illegal phone tapping of state Congress president Nana Patole during the tenure of the previous BJP-led government in Maharashtra.
The HC had “prima facie” observed delay in registering FIR and noted that the petitioner being a high ranking officer holding responsible post required to be given interim protection. The Court had also said that while FIR was registered only against Shukla, other officers were involved in the process of obtaining sanction for surveillance for unearthing narcotics operations in Pune city.
On Friday, the bench after perusing the March 4 order and the submissions held, “We are of the opinion that petitioner (Shukla) made out a case for interim relief. State not to take coercive steps against her till the next date of hearing.”
After the state’s lawyer sought that Shukla’s pleas against Colaba and Pune FIRs be heard together, the bench accepted the same and posted further hearing to April 1.