Why did suspended police officer Sachin Vaze place 20 loose gelatin sticks in a duffle bag with a Mumbai Indian logo, inside a green-coloured Scorpio and park it outside Antilia, home to one of the richest Indians, on Carmichael Road in south Mumbai?
According to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the probe on March 9 after the Union home ministry took suo moto cognizance of the explosives case, Vaze did this to regain his lost glory. A top NIA official told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity that Vaze, who was at the time of the discovery heading the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of the Crime Branch, “wanted to prove to Mumbai Police brass that he is still as good, by solving a bomb conspiracy.”
The official said that Vaze planned the whole episode to plant explosives outside Antilia. “He wanted the limelight again,” he said.
Vaze has a chequered history, no doubt. He was arrested and suspended in 2004, in connection with the alleged custodial killing of a terror suspect named Khwaja Yunus. In 2007, he left the force, and joined the Shiv Sena shortly afterwards. In the meantime, he started dealerships in partnership and security services. Vaze was only reinstated in 2020, after an alliance of the Shiv Sena, Nationalist Congress Party, and the Congress (the MVA or Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi) came to power. And he tripped up, NIA officials contended, because of his overconfidence.
Vaze was the lead investigator in the explosives case when it first came to light. It was later transferred to the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), before the NIA took over.
Vaze however has refuted this theory and maintains his innocence. On March 25, Vaze told the special NIA court which was hearing a plea to extend his custody, “I was Investigating Officer for one and a half days and I did what was required to investigate the case. Not only I but all Crime Branch and Mumbai police officers did so.”
“But suddenly something changed and when I went to NIA on March 13, I was put under the arrest by NIA officials,” he said.
The previous day, the central agency invoked sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), an anti-terror law, against the suspended cop. NIA used sections 16 and 18 of the anti-terror law claiming that an individual/or group of persons planning such a conspiracy can be booked under terror charges. The two sections deal with conspiring to commit a terror act.
The court granted custody to NIA, but for 15 days instead of 30 as permitted under the UAPA.
Which brings us back to the question posed at the beginning: why did Vaze plant the explosives, as the NIA contends? That’s one part of this saga, and much of it depends on what the NIA investigation and the ensuing court case will no doubt reveal.
But there are two more parts to this story which are inextricably linked to the green-coloured Scorpio that turned up outside Antilia, on Carmichael Road on February 25. It involves the likely murder of an auto parts dealer, and a fast-developing political crisis that the coalition government at the helm in Maharashtra finds itself in.
To use a popular millennial phrase, that escalated quickly.
News Source: Hindustan Times