Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad has not found any exchange of calls or a "terrorist link" between former state minister Eknath Khadse and fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim during its preliminary inquiry but has stumbled upon certain "serious things" that need to be probed further, the Bombay High Court was told on Monday.
Seizing on the ATS' statement to the court, Khadse, a BJP veteran from North Maharashtra who resigned early last month in the wake of a string of allegations, dubbed it as a "clean chit" to him and "vindication of his innocence".
"The ATS conducted preliminary inquiry. No terrorist angle has been found as alleged by the hacker. No calls were exchanged between Khadse and underworld don Dawood, as alleged by the hacker," ATS advocate Niteen Pradhan told a division bench of justices N H Patil and P D Naik.
The HC was hearing a petition filed by the Gujarat- based hacker Manish Bhangale who alleged a "partial probe" by the state machinery and sought CBI investigation into the matter.
The ATS also dismissed the need for any CBI probe.
However, Pradhan mentioned that while no terrorist angle has surfaced in the inquiry, certain other revelations have come to the fore.
"Certain other serious things have come to the fore during the preliminary inquiry. But those will have to be probed by experts from the city police's cyber crime cell. The ATS will submit its preliminary inquiry report to the cyber crime cell of the police's crime branch which shall then investigate," Pradhan said.
Bhangale had claimed to have hacked the authentication process of Pakistan Telecommunication Company Ltd in April this year from where he acquired the telephone records of Dawood.
According to his petition, the information also includes alleged phone calls between Dawood and Khadse who was Revenue Minister in Maharashtra cabinet.
"The claims made by the petitioner that the information provided by him to the state machinery has been taken lightly is not correct. We are doing the needful and CBI probe is not required," Pradhan said.
The HC, after recording Pradhan's statement, directed Bhangale to appear before the crime branch as and when required and provide the information he has.
The bench, while disposing of Bhangale's petition, said, "We cannot jump to CBI every time. We have to trust and have faith in the state machinery also. If at a later stage the petitioner feels probe is not being done properly, he can approach the high court again."
On Bhangale's fear that there is a threat to his life, the HC said he can file a representation before the police commissioner who shall decide it on merits.
Khadse, who was accused of facilitating a controversial land deal in favour of his kin while in office, said, "After ATS gave me clean chit, people have now realised what is truth and what was false"
"Nobody believed me when I kept on saying that I had no relation with Dawood. However, people from opposition parties kept on making allegations for their ulterior motives despite my saying that I would myself resign or give up politics altogether if they are able to give even a single proof of my involvement.
"However, the opposition was bent on spoiling the image of me and my party and thus kept levelling allegations against me without any concrete proof. As ATS has given me a clean chit, people have now realised what is truth and what is false", Khadse said in a message.
Earlier, Maharashtra Lokayukta Justice (Retd) M L Tahaliyani had given a clean chit to Khadse in an alleged bribery case involving his "personal assistant" Gajanan Patil and closed a complaint in the matter.
The Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB) had arrested Patil from outside the 'Mantralaya' (state secretariat) gate in May this year for allegedly demanding a Rs 30-crore bribe from Mumbai-based entrepreneur Ramesh Jadhav in a land allotment matter.