'Decision to reinstate Sachin Waze prerogative of Mumbai Police chief'

A review committee headed by then Commissioner Param Bir Singh had reinstated 18 officers, including Waze, suspended for 16 years; The state govt usually goes with MAT's recommendations, say officers

Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh; (right) tainted Mumbai
Police Inspector Sachin Vaze in police custody
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh; (right) tainted Mumbai Police Inspector Sachin Vaze in police custody

Gautam S. Mengle / Mumbai

Recent claims made by former Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh regarding disgraced police officer Sachin Waze’s reinstatement have once again sparked off controversy about the working of the police force, even as serving and retired police officers remain divided in their opinion regarding the veracity of Singh’s claims.

Waze was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last year in connection with the alleged planting of an explosives-laden vehicle near Antilla, the residence of businessman Mukesh Ambani. He had only returned to the police force the previous year, in 2020, after spending 16 years under suspension as he was facing trial in the Khwaja Yunus custodial death case of 2003. Following his arrest last year, he was subsequently dismissed from the police force.

Singh, who was also shunted out to the Home Guards in the wake of the controversy, has alleged that Waze’s reinstatement was due to pressure from Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aditya.

Senior IPS officers, however, said that decisions like reinstatement of suspended officers below police inspector rank are always taken by the Mumbai Police commissioner, with only a token approval from the state government.

“The Commissioner of Police is the competent authority for reinstating officers below the rank of police inspector, and the state government seldom rejects any proposal sent by him. In fact, it would have been unusual for the government, the CM or the Home Minister to not approve the Police Commissioner’s proposal, as it is assumed that he knows what he is doing. The CM can’t personally take an interest in every officer under discussion,” a senior IPS officer privy to the process of reinstatement said.

Another officer said that even when the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) examines applications of reinstatement filed by suspended or dismissed officers, it seeks a response from the state government which usually gives a positive response. In fact, if the government differs with the MAT, the onus is on the government to provide a satisfactory explanation for its stand.

It is, however, pertinent to remember that Waze was reinstated on the grounds that the police force was facing a staff shortage due to a number of policemen being taken ill during the Covid-19 pandemic.

A review committee headed by Param Bir Singh had reinstated 18 officers, including Waze, who had been under suspension for 16 years.

The police had at the time stated that, according to a government circular issued in 2011, an officer could be reinstated after two years of a chargesheet being filed, depending on the facts of the case.

Just days after his reinstatement, however, Waze was given charge of the Criminal Investigation Unit (CIU) of Mumbai Police, as part of which he went on to investigate several high-profile cases. Again, senior officers say that assignment of posting is completely the Police Commissioner’s purview.

It may also be recalled that one of the people that the CIU had arrested under Waze’s leadership was Republic TV Editor Arnab Goswami, who had, since the death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput, been continuously attacking Singh, who was then the police chief.

Singh was also the target of a sustained hate campaign on Twitter, which included hundreds of tweets using the vilest and foulest language.

While every case by the CIU received widespread attention and often a lot of applause, what seems to have gone unnoticed is that Waze was reinstated on the grounds of staff shortage due to the pandemic.

Former Maharashtra Director General of Police Praveen Dixit said, “No matter what the circumstances of his reinstatement, he should have only been used for the purpose that was stated while his suspension was revoked.”

K Subramaniam, also a former DGP of the state, however opined that this pointed to Waze’s reinstatement being politically-motivated. “Why else would an officer be reinstated citing COVID-19 and never be used for pandemic related duties?” he asked.

A day after Singh’s ‘letter bomb’ against former Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh in March 2020, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) Chief Sharad Pawar, too, had stated in a press conference that the decision to reinstate Waze was taken by Singh and not anyone else.

Singh’s letter, in which he had made allegations of gross corruption against Deshmukh, is also relevant here because, several months after writing the letter, Singh had gone on to tell the Chandiwal Commission that he had no evidence to back up his claim.

Further, Assistant Commissioner of Police Sanjay Patil whom Singh had named in his letter had also told the Commission that Deshmukh never told him to extort any money from bars and restaurants, taking the fizz out of Singh’s much-hyped claim.

It now remains to be seen whether Singh is able to produce any evidence to back up his latest claim, or if it once again turns out to be a random statement made with full knowledge of the number of eyeballs it would grab as soon as it was made public.

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