The National Investigating Agency (NIA) has arrested Maharashtra Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze for his alleged role in placing an explosives-laden vehicle near the residence of Reliance Industries chief Mukesh Ambani last month. He was taken into custody late last night at the end of hours of questioning at the agency’s office in the state capital.
Mr Vaze is also under probe by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in connection with two other related cases-
The first involving the death of Mansukh Hiran, a Thane-based businessman to whom the car found on Mumbai’s Carmichael Road on February 25 was traced.
The second pertains to the same vehicle’s theft as reported on February 17 by the auto parts dealer. The officer had allegedly borrowed the SUV for around four months till he returned it on February 5, according to Mr Hiran’s wife who also alleged his involvement in her husband’s death.
On Friday, Mr Vaze had filed an anticipatory bail plea at the Thane district sessions court and sought interim protection from arrest, terming the case against him “baseless” and a “witch-hunt”. His plea for interim protection was rejected, with the court observing that his custodial interrogation was necessary.
A hearing on his bail plea is now scheduled for March 19. The NIA then summoned him to its office yesterday where the ATS, too, joined in later.
Last week, the officer was moved out of the Mumbai crime branch to the Citizen Facilitation Centre (CFC) at the police headquarters. A day before that, on Tuesday, former Maharashtra Chief Minister and leader of the opposition, Devendra Fadnavis, had sought his arrest.
Following his transfer to CFC, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said, “Sachin Vaze is not Osama Bin Laden. It is not right to target a person and hang him and then investigate.”
The BJP today demanded that Mr Vaze be subjected to narco-analysis and alleged that the Uddhav Thackeray government was openly trying to protect him. Mr Vaze had, during an earlier period of suspension from service, joined the Shiv Sena which heads the state’s Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi dispensation now.
“Is the government worried that if Sachin Vaze is questioned, the probe will reach the government with new revelations?” state BJP spokesperson Ram Kadam asked today in a letter to Chief Minister Thackeray. “Will the Maharashtra government have the courage to subject Sachin Vaze to a narco-test?
On Friday, Mr Vaze had filed an anticipatory bail plea at the Thane district sessions court and sought interim protection from arrest, terming the case against him “baseless” and a “witch-hunt”. His plea for interim protection was rejected, with the court observing that his custodial interrogation was necessary. A hearing on his bail plea is now scheduled for March 19. The NIA then summoned him to its office yesterday where the ATS, too, joined in later.
“The informant (Vimla) is directly making allegations against the applicant in her FIR. Hence, this court came to the conclusion that the investigation is at the initial stage by the ATS.”
Sessions judge Shailendra Tambe noted, “The offence is under Section 201 of IPC (causing disappearance of evidence i.e. body of Mansukh Hiran) and 120 B (criminal conspiracy). The offence under Section 302 (murder) is serious. The accused is unknown hence, there is criminal conspiracy and thorough investigation is necessary by ATS. Hence, this court is not agreed to grant interim bail to the applicant because there is prima facie evidence and material against the applicant.”
“Hiran’s weight was around 100 kg. Suspicion is there were more than two people involved,” an ATS officer said. ATS is yet to conclude how Hiran was killed.
“The postmortem report is inconclusive,” the officer said. Appearing for Waze, counsel K M Kalekar argued the applicant himself joined in the investigation to allay any apprehension of commission of any offence, as alleged.
“The applicant has been extensively interrogated for about eight hours on March 8. The applicant has inter alia explained that since he was in South Mumbai/Dongri at the relevant time, there is absolutely no reason to have even any remote suspicion of the applicant committing murder of the deceased.”
He argued that even earlier, in 2002, the applicant was framed in a false case and had suffered arrest, harassment and mental agony, including 17 years of undue suspension. The bail was granted in 2004 after custody of 58 days and “the applicant has scrupulously abided by the bail conditions without any blemish.”
He further pointed out that in the FIR, there are only two lines against Waze where Vimla stated in Marathi, “I suspect that the murder is done by Sachin Waze” and that except these two lines, there are no allegations against the API. The ATS have so far recorded statements of over 20 people. Opposition leader Devendra Fadnavis had said in the assembly that the last location of Hiran’s cellphone was near Gawde’s house in Vasai. The investigation suggests Hiran was killed in Thane itself.