Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh's explosive allegations of corruption and interference in police work against Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh will be investigated by a one-member committee comprising a retired judge, the Shiv Sena-led alliance government - which has been under relentless opposition attack over the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare episode - announced on Tuesday.
Retired judge Kailash Uttamchand Chandiwal will probe the matter, the government announced today, adding he will submit a probe report within 6 months.
Earlier this month, Mr Singh, who had been transferred to low-key Home Guard for alleged "lapses" in the probe in the Ambani security scare case, wrote a letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, alleging Mr Deshmukh used to extort money from restaurants, pubs, bars and hookah parlours in the city with help from some police officials.
Mr Singh claimed that the minister had set a target of Rs 100 crore per month for the officers - which included Sachin Vaze, who has been arrested for allegedly planting an SUV full of explosives outside Mr Ambani's Mumbai residence.
Mr Singh alleged that the Home Minister had on several occasions instructed police officers on how to handle cases and file charges, often summoning them to his home to "bypass" him and other seniors.
Mr Deshmukh had denied the charges and said that the allegations were part of a conspiracy to malign the state government.
The black SUV recovered from outside Mr Ambani's house belonged to a Thane-based businessman, Mansukh Hiran. The car was allegedly used by Sachin Vaze, a suspended Mumbai police officer, for three months before he returned it to the man in February.
In mid-February, the car was reported stolen. On March 5, Mr Hiran was found dead in Mumbai; his wife has blamed Vaze.
The National Investigation Agency, which is probing both the cases, says it has found some incriminating evidence against the suspended officer.
Mr Singh has filed a public interest litigation in the Bombay High Court seeking a CBI probe into his allegations against Mr Deshmukh.
The court will hear the petition tomorrow.
The matter has reportedly triggered frictions in the alliance.
When the scandal first arrived, Sharad Pawar – head of Mr Deshmukh's party NCP - acknowledged that the charges against the Home Minister were serious and deemed it appropriate for Mr Thackeray to commission an inquiry against the Home Minister. But a day later, Mr Pawar's party rolled back that stand to declare that its leader, Anil Deshmukh, would not resign. Param Bir Singh's story was full of holes, it said.
According to reports, Mr Pawar met Union Minister Amit Shah on Saturday night at a Gujarati billionaire's Ahmedabad home.