The Maharashtra Chief Information Commissioner’s office today sought time to respond to a petition filed by the state government challenging an order of the transparency panel to initiate inquiry against retired top cop Rakesh Maria in connection with alleged discrepancies in the 26/11 call records. The state government had approached the high court challenging a July 2014 order passed by then State Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Ratnakar Gaikwad, directing the government to institute an inquiry (against Maria) headed by a sitting or retired judge under the Commission of Inquiry Act. The high court had last week asked government pleader Abhinandan Vagyani to inform the state CIC’s office about the petition.
A division bench of justices N H Patil and Bharati Dangre was today informed by government counsel Shekhar Naphade that the CIC has been informed about the petition and it has sought some time to respond to the state’s plea. The bench then posted the petition for hearing after two weeks. The Commissioner had ordered that the inquiry be carried out against Maria as to why misleading information was provided to Vinita Kamte, wife of additional commissioner of police Ashok Kamte, who was killed in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.
Vinita had sought call data records of the police control room on the night of November 26, 2008 when 10 terrorists fanned out and attacked various spots in Mumbai. According to Vinita, the information given to her by the police was fake and did not match the original call data records submitted by the police before the court which conducted trial in the 26/11 case. “The commissioner’s office will have to be apprised of such a petition. We will have to hear their side also while deciding this petition,” Justice Patil said and posted the petition for further hearing on June 15.
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The state government, in its petition, claimed that the CIC does not have the powers to direct the government to initiate an inquiry under the Commission of Inquiry Act. “At the most, the Commissioner can only impose penalty or hold some officer responsible for not providing information to the applicant,” Vagyani said. Maria, as then joint commissioner of police (crime branch), had led the probe into the brazen terror assault and was heading the police control room for some time during the 72-hour siege in November 2008.
Vinita had under RTI sought call logs of wireless conversations between the control room and Kamte’s van in which he was killed along with Maharashtra ATS chief Hemant Karkare and encounter specialist Vijay Salaskar. She had alleged that the details were first denied to her. However, when the information was provided in November 2009 and February 2010, there were “serious discrepancies”. Gaikwad, in his three-page scathing order, had said that the information sought by Vinita was available but still was “deliberately” not shared and delays were caused.