MUMBAI: After the embarrassing arrest of police officer Sachin Waze by the National Investigation Agency, Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh is likely to by replaced soon.
In the talks Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had with NCP chief Sharad Pawar on Monday over the mishandling of the bomb scare attempt outside Mukesh Ambani’s residence and the death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiren, both leaders agreed on sacking Singh.
The meeting went on for more than an hour at the chief minister’s official residence. A senior minister said it has now come to light that Waze had stage-managed the bomb scare on the instructions of Singh.
The alleged aim was to show that even India’s richest man’s family is not safe from threats to their lives and need Z-plus security urgently.
“But the plan went awry because of multiple loopholes. Also, top leaders of the state were not also kept in the loop. In sum, Singh was peddling his own agenda and not working for the government. In fact, he had slowed down work in politically sensitive cases,” he said requesting anonymity. For instance, the second chargesheet in the TRP scam has to be filed.
“But the Mumbai Police crime branch team that was investigating it, has been dragging its feet. The second chargesheet has more incriminating details, but the police claimed they were under pressure from Delhi to stall the process. This has annoyed the political leadership, which is another reason why Singh is expected to be axed,” said a highly placed source.
A couple of names for appointment as the new Mumbai Police commissioner are doing the rounds, including that of Rajnish Seth, who is currently serving as Director General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau.
Interestingly, Seth met Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the NIA said Tuesday it has seized a Mercedes car that was used by arrested police officer Sachin Waze and recovered Rs 5 lakh from the vehicle after searching his office from where "incriminating" documents were recovered.
Waze is at the focus of a probe by the National Investigating Agency in a case related to the recovery of an SUV with explosives near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's house.
A court, meanwhile, rejected Waze's plea contending that the manner of his arrest by the agency was illegal.
Waze, arrested in the case on March 13 for his alleged role in the crime, was attached to the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of city police's crime branch till recently.
The office is located in the police commissioner's office compound in south Mumbai.
The NIA team recovered some "incriminating" documents and electronic evidence such as laptop, iPad and mobile phones from Waze's office there, an official of the agency said.
A black Mercedes car, which was being used by Waze, was also seized from a parking lot near the CSMT station, and Rs 5 lakh in cash, a note-counting machine, two number plates and some clothes were recovered from it, Inspector General of the NIA Anil Shukla said.
The searches started around 8 pm on Monday and were going on till 4 am on Tuesday, he said.
The NIA has so far recorded the statements of seven officials of the Crime Branch including an Assistant Commissioner of Police.
The agency also questioned the CIU's Assistant Police Inspector (API) Riyazuddin Kazi for the third consecutive day, Shukla said.
Kazi had collected the Digital Video Record (DVR) of CCTVs from the housing society in the Saket area of Thane, where Waze lived on February 27, two days after the explosives-laden Mahindra Scorpio car was found on Carmichael Road near Ambani's house.
The probe agency suspects that it was collected to destroy evidence which could implicate Waze himself, the official said.
During the search, the DVR was seized.
The wife of businessman Mansukh Hiran, who had claimed that the Scorpio was stolen from his possession and who died mysteriously, has alleged that the SUV was being used by Waze for some time.
Kazi had also allegedly procured the fake number plates found in the SUV, the police official claimed.
The SUV case was taken over by the NIA following Hiran's death.
A special court on Sunday remanded Waze in the custody of the central agency till March 25.
On Tuesday, the court rejected Waze's plea claiming that his arrest was illegal.
His lawyers Sajal Yadav and Sunny Punamiya argued that Waze was not produced before the court within 24 hours of his arrest, as is required.
No sanction was taken from the state government under section 45(1) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the lawyers contended.
Under section 45(1), the sanction from the government is necessary if an official is to be arrested for anything done in his or her official capacity.
Special Public Prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves denied the allegations.
Waze was arrested at 11.50 pm on Saturday and produced before the court at about 2.45 pm the next day, he said.
Waze was called in the morning for some clarification about the probe, but he arrived late at night, the prosecutor claimed.
Waze's lawyers had alleged that he was detained since 11 am on Saturday.
Sanction was not needed as Waze had not acted in discharge of his official duty, the NIA lawyer said.
Judge P R Sitre, while rejecting Waze's plea, observed that he was a policeman and knew his rights.
"The entry in the station diary clearly reflects that intimation was provided to the accused and the police station concerned and also information about his arrest, which means grounds of arrest, were provided," the judge said.
Whether he had acted "in the course of performance of duty" can be examined during the trial, the court held.
It allowed Waze's lawyer to watch his interrogation from behind a glass partition, but not within the hearing distance.
Speaking to reporters here, BJP leader Pravin Darekar said the more the ruling Shiv Sena in Maharashtra defended Waze, the more suspicion there will be about the state government's intentions.
The Sena had on Monday said the takeover of the case by the NIA was an "insult" to the Maharashtra police.
NCP president Sharad Pawar on Tuesday backed the state government and said it handled the situation well.
He also discarded speculation that Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh would be sacked over the handling of the case.
"This is news to me," Pawar said on speculation over Deshmukh's sacking.
Deshmukh belongs to the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).
"We do not believe that (an arrest of a sub-inspector) will impact the state government," Pawar said.
After the Waze's episode, Pawar on Monday held meetings with his NCP ministers and state Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray.
When asked how did the state government handle the issue, he said, "The Maharashtra government has handled it well, which is why all got exposed."
He said the investigation in the case was first started by the Maharashtra Police, and the National Investigation Agency (NIA) later made arrests.
Leaders from allies Congress and NCP on Tuesday met Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray amid the developments.
Sources from both the parties said they pointed out during the meeting that Waze's arrest has caused embarassment to the Shiv Sena-led government.
The Congress was already miffed with Waze being reinstated in 2020 and getting special treatment despite his alleged involvement in the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, an accused in a blast case, 16 years ago.
Opposition BJP had alleged that Waze was a Shiv Sena member, but Thackeray had clarified that he was a member in 2008 but his membership was not renewed and now he has nothing to do with the party.
"If there is substantial evidence of senior police officials being mixed up with Waze's activities, they should be removed. We need to give a strong message to the police department," said a senior Congress leader.
(With PTI Inputs)