Encounters, Fame, Hiatus, Arrest: The Rise & Fall of Sachin Vaze
The journey of Sachin Vaze from neutralising gangsters to himself being arrested in a terror case.
Mumbai top cop Sachin Vaze, who has been embroiled in controversy ever since he took over the probe of the case regarding explosives outside Mukesh Ambani’s house, was suspended on Monday, 15 March, just a day after he was arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) and remanded to 12 days of custody.
Vaze was earlier transferred from the Crime Branch after furore in Maharashtra over his alleged association with the owner of the Scorpio that was used to carry out the bomb scare.
The Devendra Fadnavis-led Opposition has been keeping up the pressure on the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government in the state and has accused the Shiv Sena of defending him due to his alleged links with the party.
But Vaze’s brush with controversy isn’t new. From a renowned encounter specialist to having a film based on him to now being arrested, Vaze has been as much controversial as he is credited for certain achievements by the Mumbai Police.
Sachin Vaze: The Controversial Encounter Specialist
A 1990 batch officer from Kolhapur, Vaze’s career has been marred by several controversies in the past. Vaze was one of the most-renowned encounter specialists of the 90s. Having worked under former head of Andheri Crime Intelligence Unit Pradeep Sharma, Vaze is said to have encountered over 60 criminals, including people from the gangs of Dawood Ibrahim and Chhota Rajan.
His first posting was in Naxal-affected Gadchiroli in Maharashtra, following which he was transferred to Thane Police in 1992. He was soon inducted in the special squad of the Thane Crime Branch. He was also inducted into the special squad of Anti-Extortion Cell as an ‘encounter specialist’.
Vaze is credited for solving several cyber crime cases. He is also credited for setting up the Cell Phone Inspection Unit and the Email Tracking System.
Custodial Death, Suspension, and Hiatus
Following the 6 December 2002 bomb blasts, a case was registered against 14 people in the matter of custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, who was arrested under the Prevention Of Terrorism Act (POTA). Vaze was one of the accused and was suspended in 2004. Vaze then tried to get reinstated for a few years but could not do so as the case was still pending.
He eventually quit the police force in 2007 and joined the Shiv Sena in 2008.
During his hiatus, Vaze authored books on the 26/11 terror attacks, the Sheena Bora case, and the David Headley case. The 2013 Marathi film Rege is based on Vaze’s life.
Handled High-Profile Cases After Controversial Reinstatement
After a 16-year hiatus, Vaze was reinstated in the force in June 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic under Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh, citing shortage of personnel.
After his reinstatement, he was soon assigned high-profile cases like the fake social media followers case involving rapper Badshah and the Hrithik Roshan fake e-mails case, among others.
Vaze was also overseeing the TRP scam case related to journalist Arnab Goswami and the case of abetment of suicide of Anvay Naik and his mother, in which Goswami is a prime accused. Vaze led the team that had arrested Goswami from his residence recently.
His reinstatement had come as a shock to many since his trial in the custodial death case is still pending. Khwaja Yunus’ family has also challenged the reinstatement in the High Court.
From Probing Ambani Case to Being Arrested in It
Vaze was leading the Crime Branch and the probe in the Ambani bomb scare case along with the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).
During the investigation, the name of Mansukh Hiren surfaced for being in possession of the Scorpio that was found laden with explosives outside Antilia. While Hiren had reported the car to be stolen and lodged an FIR regarding the same, he was being questioned in the matter until he was found dead on 5 March. His body was recovered from the Mumbra creek.
Two days later on 7 March, Mansukh Hiren’s wife Kamala Hiren filed an FIR against Vaze, accusing him of murdering her husband. She also said that Vaze was in possession of the Scorpio for months till 5 February and that it was reported stolen just a week before it was found outside Antilia.
In the FIR, Kamala Hiren detailed the timeline of the family’s association with Vaze and all the help that Vaze provided Hiren right since the car was stolen and found outside Antilia and the subsequent investigation.
She also alleged that Vaze had asked Hiren to surrender to the cops and said that he would help him secure his bail and release.
Soon after the FIR, the Maharashtra BJP upped the ante and demanded Vaze’s immediate suspension and arrest. The Devendra Fadnavis-led Opposition accused the Shiv Sena of deliberately shielding Vaze due to his links with the party.
Amid rising pressure, Vaze was transferred from the Crime Branch. While the Sena still defended Vaze, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said that he was being transferred for a fair investigation.
The NIA took over the case on 8 March and Vaze was summoned for questioning on 13 March, following which he was arrested at 11:50 pm and remanded to a 12-day NIA custody by a special court.
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