Maharashtra Home Minister, Facing CBI Probe Over Top Cop's Charge, Quits

Dilip Walse Patil has taken over as the new Maharashtra Home Minister.

Anil Deshmukh had rejected calls for his resignation for weeks, saying he had done nothing wrong

Mumbai:

Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh resigned today citing "moral grounds" hours after the Bombay High Court ordered a preliminary CBI investigation into former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh's allegations of corruption against him. This is the biggest fallout so far of the case that began with the sensational discovery of a car full of explosives near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's Mumbai home in February. In the investigations since, a police officer has been arrested by the National Investigation Agency and the Mumbai Police Commissioner has changed.

Dilip Walse Patil has taken over as the new state Home Minister.

"I don't have the moral right to continue in office after the court order. I have decided to quit. Kindly relieve me from my post," said the resignation letter of Mr Deshmukh, who belongs to Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), a member of the Shiv Sena-led coalition ruling Maharashtra. Mr Deshmukh went to hand over the letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray after Mr Pawar gave his green signal, NCP leader and minister Nawab Malik said.

Soon after, it emerged that the Maharashtra government and Mr Deshmukh would request the Supreme Court to cancel the CBI probe.

Dilip Walse Patil, a former Speaker and seven-time MLA, is one of the senior most lawmakers in Maharashtra and started his career as personal assistant to Mr Pawar.

Mr Deshmukh had for weeks resisted calls for his resignation, saying he had done nothing wrong. His party boss Sharad Pawar had given him a clean chit and after several meetings, Uddhav Thackeray's Shiv Sena had also fallen in line despite visible strain in the alliance.

Param Bir Singh had told the court last week that Mr Deshmukh replaced him because he had complained to Uddhav Thackeray listing several allegations against the minister, including extortion and illegal transfers. The High Court today asked the CBI to investigate the allegations within 15 days.

The former Mumbai police chief first made the allegations in an explosive letter to the Chief Minister. The letter emerged just after Mr Deshmukh told reporters that Mr Singh was removed because of "unpardonable mistakes" in the Ambani bomb scare investigation.

In retaliation, Param Bir Singh went public with his letter to the Chief Minister detailing allegations against the state Home Minister.

Mr Deshmukh, the former top cop said, had asked police officers, including Sachin Waze -- arrested by the National Investigation Agency in the Ambani bomb scare - to collect Rs 100 crore each month from bars and restaurants.

The petition also accused Mr Deshmukh of corruption in police transfers and postings, based on allegations by an IPS officer, Rashmi Shukla.

Soon after Mr Deshmukh's resignation, the BJP targeted the Chief Minister, saying his "conspicuous silence" was raising questions and he had lost the moral authority to govern.

"This is not Maha Vikas Aghadi but Maha Vasooli (extortion) Aghadi. Anil Deshmukh has resigned on moral grounds -- these are big words. Uddhav Thackeray didn't say anything...Deshmukh defended himself. Where are your morals Uddhavji? Will we hear about your morals," said Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.