Maharashtra illegal phone tapping case: Court accepts CBI’s closure report, says offence is true but culprits undetected

A Mumbai court accepted the CBI’s closure report in a case of alleged phone tapping that took place during the term of the previous Maha Vikas Aghadi government and said it was necessary to allow the report for the time being as “the offence alleged is true but the culprits are undetected”.

The Central Bureau of Investigation’s closure report was accepted by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (Esplanade court) S P Shinde on August 22. The detailed order was made available on Friday.

The case stems from a press conference addressed by present Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in March 2021, when he was the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly.

In the press conference, Fadnavis cited a letter purportedly written by IPS officer Rashmi Shukla to then Maharashtra Director General of Police about alleged corruption in transfers in the police department.

The investigating agency said it could not establish as to from where, by whom and when the documents in question were handed over to Fadanvis, the court order mentioned.

From the report, it becomes clear undisputed fact that some of the letters, which are official communication between the Commissioner of Intelligence (COI) Rashmi Shukla, State Intelligence Department (SID), then Maharashtra DGP and chief minister regarding tapping of mobile phones of some of the police officers were illegally obtained from the office of SID, the order said.

Some letters were over-written as the contents are not in the original letters/documents, the order added.

It shows some unknown persons committed theft of confidential official records, forged letters/documents by inserting new contents than that of original, downloaded the computer data illegally, the court said.

“Now, the investigating officer is praying to accept the closure report in view of not establishing who were the accused persons,” it said.

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“….As the investigating officer is unable to establish the identity of accused persons of alleged criminal act now, on the basis of investigation done it is necessary to accept the report for time being by granting ‘A’ Summary as offence alleged is true, but culprits are undetected,” the magistrate said in his order.

The Mumbai police had at the time registered a First Information Report (FIR) under the Official Secrets Act at BKC Cyber police station here against unidentified persons for alleged phone tapping of political leaders and senior government officials, and leaking of confidential documents.

The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint lodged by the State Intelligence Department (SID). Shukla, who headed SID in 2019, was accused of tapping phones of political leaders and senior officials without authorisation.

The police had recorded the statement of Fadnavis, while he was in the opposition, in March 2022.

However, after the Eknath Shinde government took over in June 2022, in which Fadnavis is deputy CM, it ordered that the case be transferred from Mumbai police to the CBI.

The CBI later filed a closure report and the SID, which was the complainant in the case, gave its no-objection for closing of investigation.

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