Mumbai: A Special NIA Court on Sunday sent arrested Mumbai Police Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Vaze, to 10 days custody of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) till March 25.
Vaze was arrested minutes before midnight on Saturday and produced before the Special NIA Court this afternoon in connection with the case pertaining to an abandoned SUV with gelatin sticks found near the home of top industrialist Mukesh Ambani.
The NIA has booked the 49-year police official in connection with SUV case and he is also being simultaneously probed by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) for the mystery death of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiren.
Formally arrested after nearly 12 hours of grilling by the NIA team, Vaze underwent the mandatory medical checkup and a Covid-19 test before he was taken to the court under tight security.
In its remand application, the NIA sought Vaze’s maximum custody for further interrogation and investigations as he was the investigating officer in the SUV case.
Opposing the NIA, Vaze’s lawyer Sudeep Pasbola contended that the agency had no evidence to implicate the police officer.
He also sought a copy of the remand application, which the NIA has refused to share with the accused on grounds of privilege and confidentially. This matter will be heard by the Special Judge, NIA court, P.R. Fitre on Monday.
Vaze, a former ‘encounter specialist’ of Mumbai Police, was arrested under various sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Explosives Substances Act.
Officer of 1990 batch
An officer of the 1990 batch of the state police cadre, Vaze – with 69 ‘encounters’ to his credit – was suspended in 2004 over his role in the custodial death of Khawaja Yunus, a suspect in the 2002 Ghatkopar bomb blast, but was reinstated in the police force last year.
A former member of Shiv Sena, Vaze had led the team which arrested Republic TV Editor-in-Chief Arnab Goswami last November in an abetment to suicide case.
The present case involved an abandoned SUV found with 20 gelatin sticks near Antilia, the Ambani residence, on February 25 and the subsequent death of the vehicle’s owner, Thane businessman Mansukh Hiren on March 5.
Initially, both the cases were probed by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch, and later transferred to the ATS, till the Centre handed over the SUV matter to the NIA.
The two cases sparked off a nationwide political furore.
Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said that the action in the case involving the planting of a SUV Scorpio with gelatin sticks and the subsequent death of Hiren “would be based on truth” that comes out of the investigations.
While the ruling Shiv Sena slammed the Centre’s moves to unilaterally take over important cases as demoralising for the Mumbai Police, the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party launched a fresh attack on the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government.
Leader of Opposition Devendra Fadnavis said Vaze’s arrest is merely the beginning and it is necessary to probe who are the people behind him, supporting him in the government, since the involvement of police officials in crimes will shake the people’s faith in the police.
Suspecting that it is not a small matter, but “a larger plot” in which the truth must come out, he said it is “a serious matter that the person who was the investigating officer has been arrested”.
Leader of Opposition in the Council Pravin Darekar demanded answers from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray since he was seen defending Vaze last week.
Demanding a narco-test on Vaze to unravel the names of the ‘master-conspirators’, BJP city spokesperson Ram Kadam asked whether the MVA government was worried that the policeman’s revelations could create problems for the ruling dispensation.
BJP leader and former MP Kirit Somaiya demanded the sacking of Home Minister Deshmukh and Mumbai Commissioner of Police Param Bir Singh in the wake of Vaze’s arrest.