The Supreme Court Friday restrained the Chhattisgarh government from intercepting telephones of 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 Mr Gupta will continue till further orders.
Mukesh Gupta is accused of unlawful phone tapping and violating 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 for Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) violation by a trust which was founded by his father.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and S Ravindra Bhat restrained the Chhattisgarh government from tapping the phones of Mr 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 Mr Gupta's plea should not be entertained since 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," Mr Rohatgi said.
Senior advocate Mahesh Jethmalani, appearing for the police officer, alleged that Mr Gupta was being harassed by the state government for reopening a case where the accused were close to those in power.
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 is pursuing a medical course in Chennai.
Mr Jethmalani said that as per the Supreme Court's earlier verdict and the Indian Telegraph Act, there are limited exceptions in which the phone can be tapped as it amounts to breach of privacy of an individual.
"The second case, which they have lodged is of 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 a hounding exercise," he said.
The senior counsel said that the state government even withdrew Mr Gupta's promotion along with two other IPS officers by a cabinet decision.
On September 2, the top court had sought response from the state government and the Chief Minister, on Mr Gupta's plea seeking transfer of cases to the CBI alleging bias on the part of present dispensation in the state.
The top court has 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 (EOW) 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 officer who was suspended was then the Narayanpur Superintendent of Police Rajnesh Singh.
The case was lodged on the basis of the investigation 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.
Mr Gupta and Mr Singh were booked for false evidence, tampering evidence, forgery and other relevant sections of IPC and under provisions of Indian Telegraph Act.
However, Mr 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 Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the EOW conducted simultaneous raids at 25 premises of the Civil Supplies Corporation.