Antilia bomb scare case: Sachin Waze sent to NIA custody till March 25

Express News Service
MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government on Monday suspended Sachin Waze, the ‘encounter specialist’ police officer allegedly linked to the seizure of an explosives-laden SUV found near Mukesh Ambani’s residence on February 25. 

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had arrested the assistant police inspector on Saturday.

The officer is in NIA custody till March 25. On Monday he was admitted to JJ Hospital for a check-up.

The officer’s suspension came after NCP chief Sharad Pawar and CM Uddhav Thackeray met at the latter’s residence on Monday. Sources said Pawar was concerned about the handling of the sensitive case. The state capital was abuzz with speculation that more heads could roll in the episode. 

Sources said “big names” in Mumbai Police and other departments are likely to be suspended for their “mysterious role” in the entire episode. The ruling alliance is reported to be unhappy with Mumbai police commissioner Parambir Singh. 

Pawar also met his party’s ministers and told them not to hesitate in taking actions against senior officers.

“He is not happy with Home Minister Anil Deshmukh for his causal approach in handling the Waze case,” said a source. 

“Pawar saheb told us to act against those officers who are not following government orders and misusing their powers. He directed us to enforce discipline in various departments. Otherwise, it would be difficult for ministers to remain in their position,” said a minister who was part of the meeting.

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NCP leaders on Monday reportedly also discussed the party’s likely candidate to replace Deshmukh post. “NCP state unit chief Jayant Patil, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and Health Minister Rajesh Tope are the frontrunners. Pawar’s daughter and MP Supriya Sule has put her weight behind Tope who has a clean image,” said a source.

Officially, though, the party denied replacement talks with Patil saying “there is no question of home minister Anil Deshmukh being replaced”.

In another development, Waze’s brother filed a ‘habeas corpus’ petition in the Bombay High Court challenging his arrest and claimed that he was being made a “scapegoat” by “certain political powers”.

The plea, moved by his lawyer Sunny Punamiya, sought a direction to the NIA to produce Waze before the HC and to prove that due procedure was followed during the arrest.

The police officer was not provided a copy of the FIR and he was also not explained the reasons for arrest, nor was his family informed, the petition said.

The haste with which he was arrested showed that the central agency acted with malafide intentions, it alleged.

The NIA is probing the recovery of an explosives-laden Scorpio near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s multi-storey house `Antilia’ here last month.

The case was taken over by the NIA after the mysterious death of Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiren who had claimed the vehicle had been stolen from his possession.

The petition said the allegations made by Hiren’s wife, blaming Waze for her husband’s death, were false.

After the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad registered an FIR against him, the “entire media fraternity and society started targeting” him as they wanted a “scapegoat to pin this entire conspiracy on”, Waze claimed.

The petition is yet to be listed for hearing.

Meanwhile, arguing before a special court here, the NIA denied that Waze had been detained illegally before the arrest.

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The special court had remanded Waze in the custody of the central agency till March 25 on Sunday.

Waze’s lawyers had alleged during the remand hearing that he was illegally detained by the NIA officials from 11 am on Saturday and shown as arrested only late at night.

During the hearing on Monday, the NIA told the court that Waze was summoned by NIA officials on Saturday as he was the previous investigating officer of the SUV recovery case.

There were several discrepancies in case documents such as memos, seizure documents and station diary but Waze gave evasive answers when questioned, said special prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves.

He had come to the NIA office even without his mobile phones, the prosecutor said.

Since Waze did not provide satisfactory explanations about his probe, he was placed under arrest around 11.50 pm on Saturday, the agency claimed.

On Waze’s allegation that his family was not informed, the agency said he refused to give their contact details, so his police station was informed about his arrest.

On defence’s demand for CCTV cameras in the interrogation room, the NIA claimed that there are CCTV cameras in all the rooms at their office.

The defence lawyers asked the agency to submit the same in writing before the court.

The hearing will continue on Tuesday.

(With PTI Inputs)