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Civil supplies scam: SC restrains Chandigarh govt from tapping phone of its IPS officer

 The Supreme Court Friday restrained the Chhattisgarh government from interception of telephones of its top police officer Mukesh Gupta and his family and granted him protection from arrest in the cases lodged against him.

The top court told the state government that its earlier interim orders of stay on further investigation in two FIRs lodged against Gupta, will continue till further orders.

Gupta is accused of unlawful phone tapping and in violation the provisions of Indian Telegraph Act during the investigation of civil supplies scam unearthed in 2015.

The top court however refused to quash the FIRs against the 1988 batch IPS officer including one of FCRA violation by a trust running a eye hospital, founded by his father.

A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat restrained the Chhattisgarh government from tapping the phones of Gupta, his wife, his two young daughters and other family members.

The top court also protected the police officer from arrest in the two FIRs lodged against him in the case and posted the matter for further hearing on November 4.

Advocates Mukul Rohatgi, Vivek Tankha and Sumeer Sodhi, appearing for Chhattisgarh government and Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, told the top court at the outset that the plea of Gupta should not be entertained as a similar plea is pending in the High Court.

“He is riding two horses. The High Court had asked him to cooperate in the investigation but instead of cooperating he filed a writ petition before the Supreme Court. He is bound by the orders of the High Court and being a senior police officer, he understands that,” Rohatgi said.

Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the police officer, alleged that he was hounded by the state government as being a police officer, he had opened a case in which people close to the current dispensation are accused.

“I am being booked in false cases. The inquest proceedings in the 2001 suicide case of a close friend of my family, were opened against me, despite the fact that it was closed three times. I have been exonerated three times by different forums,” Jethmalani said.

He added that state government is tapping the phones of his client, his family members including his two young daughters, one of who is a lawyer and the other pursuing MBBS course in Chennai.

Jethmalani said that as per the Supreme Court’s earlier verdict and the Indian Telegraph Act, there are only limited exceptions in which the phone can be tapped as it amount to breach of privacy of an individual.

“The second case, which they have lodged is of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violation by an eye hospital founded by my aged father. They are conducting a fishing inquiry into the trust running the hospital. Perusal of the complaint and the preliminary inquiry report makes clear that it is an hounding exercise,” he said.

The senior counsel said that the state government have even on September 24, 2019, withdrawn his promotion of Gupta alongwith two other IPS officers from the director general by a cabinet decision.

On September 2, the top court has sought response from the state government and the Chief Minister, on the plea of Gupta seeking transfer of cases to the CBI alleging bias on the part of present dispensation in the state.

The top court had stayed further investigation in the two FIRs lodged by the police till further orders.

On February 9, this year, two IPS officers from Chhattisgarh, including Special DGP Mukesh Gupta, were suspended after the Economic Offences Wing of the police registered an FIR against them for alleged criminal conspiracy and illegal phone tapping during the Civil Supplies Corporation scam probe in 2015.

The officers, who was suspended is then Narayanpur Superintendent of Police Rajnesh Singh.

The case was lodged on the basis of the investigation carried by a Special Investigation Team (SIT), constituted by the Congress government, to probe the alleged multi-crore civil supply scam unearthed during the previous BJP government.

Gupta and Singh were booked under sections 193 (false evidence), 201 (causing disappearance of evidence of offence, or giving false information to screen offender), 466 (forgery), 471 (Using as genuine a forged), 120B (criminal conspiracy) and other relevant sections of IPC and under provisions of Indian Telegraph Act.

However, Gupta had denied all charges and said that all actions in the investigation of scam were taken in accordance with law and with due permissions from competent authority.

The alleged scam was exposed in February 2015 when the ACB and the EOW conducted simultaneous raids at 25 premises of the Civil Supplies Corporation.

The incumbent Bhupesh Baghel government had on January 8, this year set up a 12-member SIT under Inspector General of Police, ACB and EOW, SRP Kalluri to probe the alleged multi-crore scam citing that some points, including political involvement, were left uncovered in the previous probe in the case.

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