Param Bir Singh meets Sachin Vaze privately for about an hour; Mumbai police probe ‘lapse’
Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh on Monday met dismissed assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze and spoke to him for about an hour at the Old Secretariat Building in Mumbai from where the justice K U Chandiwal commission is conducting enquiry proceedings – prompting an immediate investigation by Mumbai Police into what the department termed a “lapse”.
At 10.30 am, Singh went to his own office – he is commandant general of Maharashtra Home Guards – on first floor of the building in south Mumbai, according to people familiar with the matter. At about 11.00 am, he appeared before the commission on the upper floor of the same building and got the bailable warrant against him cancelled.
Singh filed an affidavit explaining that he could not appear before the commission earlier on account of health issues, and about 10 minutes later went to the adjoining room, the people added, requesting anonymity.
Even as the commission completed formalities of cancelling the warrant against Singh, the 56-year-old Indian Police Service officer met Vaze in the adjoining room. Vaze, arrested by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in connection with the Antilia bomb scare case and the connected murder of Thane trader Mansukh Hiran, and lodged at Taloja jail in Navi Mumbai, was brought at the commission for cross examination by lawyers of several parties to the enquiry.
The meeting between Singh and Vaze occurred with prior permission of the commission, a lawyer familiar with Monday’s development said on condition of anonymity.
The commission’s lawyer, Shishir Hiray, disputed it. “As per my knowledge, no permission was taken from the special NIA court for any such meeting,” he said. Vaze is in judicial custody of the NIA court hearing the Antilla and Hiran cases.
Singh was removed as police chief for his mishandling of the case, and shortly after went public with allegations that the state’s home minister Anil Deshmukh asked Vaze to extort money from restaurants and bars. Deshmukh was forced to resign as home minister and is currently being investigated by both the Central Bureau of Investigation and the Enforcement Directorate. Meanwhile, five cases have been filed against Singh.
Deshmukh’s lawyer took strong objection to the meeting and pointed out the fact to retired judge Chandiwal.
Justice Chandiwal, however, ignored the objections. “How can I keep watch on everything and stop them from meeting,” asked the retired high court judge. “But, to avoid such situation in the future, it’s better that he (Vaze) sits in this room (where the commission is functioning from).”
Taking serious note of the meeting between the two accused, Mumbai Police on Monday launched an enquiry into the incident.
“An assistant commissioner of police conducted preliminary inquiry into the apparent lapse. After recording statements of the police escort party, a sub-inspector and three police constables, a report of the inquiry was handed over to Navi Mumbai police for further action. The escort party personnel are attached to Navi Mumbai police,” said Hari Balaji N, deputy commissioner of police.
After being incommunicado for months, Singh, a 1988 batch IPS officer, resurfaced at his home town Chandigarh on November 24, two days after the Supreme Court gave him protection from arrest by Maharashtra Police and directed him to join investigations in the pending cases against him.
He came back to Mumbai on Thursday and joined investigations in the cases against him being conducted by the Mumbai crime branch and Thane police. Singh is slated to appear this week before the state’s Criminal Investigation Department, which is investigating three cases against him.