Senior IPS officer Rashmi Shukla on Wednesday told the Bombay High Court that the Maharashtra government had given its permission for interception of certain phone numbers to authenticate complaints of corruption in police transfers and postings.
Her counsel Mahesh Jethmalani said that when Ms Shukla was heading the state intelligence department, she was directed by the Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) to conduct surveillance of a few phone numbers.
"The numbers belonged to a few brokers with political connections indulging in corruption and demanding massive monetary compensation for plum postings and transfers," Mr Jethmalani said.
A division bench of Justices SS Shinde and NJ Jamadar was hearing a petition filed by Ms Shukla challenging an FIR filed against her by the Mumbai police's cyber cell in a case of illegal phone tapping and alleged leaking of sensitive documents related to police postings.
"The then DGP had directed Rashmi Shukla to carry out surveillance. She was only following the DGP's directives. Shukla had then taken permission from the state government's Additional Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte under the provisions of the Indian Telegraph Act," Mr Jethmalani said.
He added that from July 17, 2020 to July 29, 2020, Kunte had given permission to Ms Shukla to carry out surveillance.
"Kunte confirmed this in his report submitted to the government on March 25, 2021. But later he said he was misled while permission was sought," Mr Jethmalani argued.
Ms Shukla is now being made a scapegoat, he said.
"Interception for prevention of crime is a valid ground for interception of wireless messages," the senior counsel told the court.
The bench said it would continue hearing the petition on August 5 and said the earlier assurance given by the police in May that it would not take any coercive action or arrest Shukla shall continue till then.
Ms Shukla is currently serving as additional director general of the Central Reserve Police Force's (CRPF) South Zone and is posted in Hyderabad.
The petition said that Ms Shukla had exposed the alleged nexus between ministers and politicians and other gross corruption involved in assigning postings to police officers.
Instead of applauding and appreciating the work of the petitioner, the "government authorities are involved in framing the petitioner in a false criminal case", it alleged.
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 on the complaint filed by the Maharashtra Intelligence Department.
The alleged tapping of phones had taken place when Ms Shukla headed the state intelligence department.
BJP leader Devendra Fadnavis had cited a letter purportedly written by Ms Shukla to the then DGP about alleged corruption in police transfers. The letter also had details of intercepted calls, leading to an uproar with leaders of the Shiv Sena-led ruling coalition alleging that Ms Shukla tapped phones without permission.
Before the registration of the FIR, Sitaram Kunte had alleged in a report submitted to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray that it appears that Shukla herself had leaked the confidential report (to Fadnavis).