MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government has told the Bombay High Court that senior IPS officer Rashmi Shukla has not been named as an accused in the case of alleged illegal phone tapping and leaking of confidential documents related to police transfers and postings, and hence she cannot seek quashing of the FIR.
In an affidavit filed on Saturday, the government said the investigation only pertains to how sensitive and confidential information was unauthorisedly leaked to third parties from the State Intelligence Department (SID) and has got nothing to do with the contents of the said documents.
It further claimed that the offences are not in any way connected to the offences being investigated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh.
The affidavit was submitted in response to a petition filed by Shukla seeking quashing of the FIR, alleging that she was being made a scapegoat and targeted by the Maharashtra government for submitting a report on alleged corruption in police transfers and postings.
The affidavit filed by Rashmi Karandikar, Deputy Commissioner of Police of the city police’s crime branch, said the FIR registered by the police is against “unknown persons” and hence the petitioner has no locus (standi) to file the plea seeking to quash the case.
“The petition is not maintainable and ought to be dismissed on the ground that the petitioner has no locus as she is not named as an accused in the FIR,” the affidavit said.
“The impugned FIR is registered against unknown persons and therefore the petitioner has erroneously proceeded on the basis that she has been purportedly falsely implicated in the case,” it said.
The state government added that the petitioner was issued notices to merely provide fact and information in the investigation.
It further said that the FIR is for commission of offences under the Official Secrets Act and the Information Technology Act.
As per the affidavit, the offence is of unauthorised leakage of top secret and confidential information obtained by the SID pursuant to technical surveillance.
“The offence to be investigated is the leakage of information and has nothing to do with the contents of the information leaked,” it said.
“Even assuming, without admitting, that the sanctions were validly received (for surveillance), I state and submit that the information received pursuant to such surveillance constitutes information contemplated under the Official Secrets Act and thus leakage of such information constitutes an offence,” the affidavit said.
It added that the information that was kept in the servers of the State Intelligence Department was downloaded and copied to a pen-drive and then unauthorisedly leaked to a third party without information.
“This leak constitutes a cognizable offence under the Information Technology Act,” the affidavit claimed.
Shukla, in her plea filed through senior counsel Mahesh Jethmalani and advocate Gunjan Mangla, had claimed that the SID had taken requisite permissions from the Additional Chief Secretary of the state government prior to the surveillance.
The affidavit, however, claimed that as per a report prepared by the additional chief secretary on March 25, 2021, he (additional chief secretary) was misguided as to the purpose for which the permission was sought.
The government also refuted Shukla’s allegations that the FIR was filed as an act of vendetta.
“The petitioner’s contentions are misconceived and wholly devoid of merit,” it said.
A division bench of Justices S S Shinde and N J Jamadar will hear the petition on September 13.
Shukla is currently serving as the additional director general of the Central Reserve Police Force’s South Zone and is posted in Hyderabad.
In her plea, she said she had exposed the alleged nexus between ministers and politicians and other gross corruption involved in assigning postings to police officers.
The FIR was registered at the BKC Cyber police station in Mumbai against unidentified persons for allegedly tapping phones illegally and leaking certain confidential documents and information.
The alleged phone tapping had taken place last year when Shukla headed the SID.