This blog is part of our “Gyan Series“. In this blog, we would get to know everything about the Sachin Vaze Case from Adv. Jayant Bhatt.
Adv. Jayant Bhatt is an independent legal practitioner, who is an alumnus of the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the New York University (NYU), USA. He is a Senior Panel Counsel for Govt. of India in the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi. and has a keen interest in mentoring young minds.
Sir, can you please explain, what are the major facts of the case in the Sachin Vaze Case?
First of all, whenever any investigation is lodged in the country, we should wait for the court to formally announce the chronology of facts. What we gather from the media is piecemeal information, from which a chronology of events is extracted, but this extraction isn’t completely genuine till the time we know the complete facts of the case and is mere speculation. As per my limited understanding, I don’t think a Charge Sheet has yet been filed.
This case has seen some limelight and is the subject of prime time news because Mr. Mukesh Ambani’s house was allegedly targeted by certain people. The Maharashtra police national investigation agency is looking into this and has arrested Mr. Sachin Vaze. Mr. Vaze was a serving employee of the Maharashtra Police. A few years ago, when he was inducted into the police force he was known for conducting encounters. A Mr. Pradeep Sharma is also associated with him and they collectively are believed to have killed 63 criminals. In March 2004 Mr. Vaze was suspended from his duty along with some other people. This was because of his involvement in the custodial death of Khwaja Yunus, a suspect in the 2002 Ghatkopar blast case, and thereafter, he officially resigned from his post. After 16 years of suspension, Mr. Vaze was again reinstated into the force. The reason for the same was a shortage of staff due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Within four days of him being reinstated, he was posted in the Specialized criminal intelligence Bureau of the Mumbai Crime Branch.
On the 25th of February 2021, a case of the bomb threat was reported. This incident was reported throughout the nation that an SUV was found about 600 meters away from Mr. Mukesh Ambani’s house with 20 gelatin sticks and a letter addressed to Mr. Mukesh and Neeta Ambani. The letter was a threat to their and other family members’ life and Liberty. Subsequently,
On 27th February 2021, a message by Jaishul hind was posted through a telegram account, demanding cryptocurrency. Another message was posted on the group by the same organization and they said that they had nothing to do with the car parked near Mr. Ambani’s residence. Further, on March 1, 2021, an SUV was found near Antilia which was traced to one Mansukh Hiren. It was narrated by the police that back in November 2020 Mr. Hiren gave the SUV to Mr. Vaze, who was his client.
In February 2021 Mr. Hiren was forced to park the car in the Eastern Express Highway as the steering was jammed. When he came back the next day, he finds the car missing. He then filed a complaint with the concerned Police station in Mumbai. On 2nd March, Mr. Hiren alleged harassment by Maharashtra CM, Home Minister of Maharashtra and Param Bir Singh. On 4th March he received a call from a police officer named Tawde. On, 5th March 2021 Mr. Hiren was found dead. According to the police, he had committed suicide. However, his wife alleged that her husband had been killed.
Subsequently, Mr. Vaze was removed and transferred to another department. A sim card and mobile phone were recovered from him by the police. On the late night of the 13th of March, the police arrested Mr. Vaze after extensive rounds of questioning by the NIA under various sections pertaining to forgery, criminal intimidation, etc. Later two assistant commissioners of police were called for interrogation.
The Special NIA Court extended the custody of Vaze till April 9th, 2021. So, there were various allegations against Mr. Vaze and these facts are available in the public domain but we should wait for the charge sheet to be filed. Further, in a criminal trial, we need to understand that it should be about the crime and not about the possibility of crime.
Looking into the present case, according to you are the Indian laws of corruption lacking somewhere?
I think it\’s not just a matter of corruption; it’s also a matter of vengeance and revenge. The right procedure is in place, we have the Prevention of the Corruption Act and other sections of the Penal Code which may be attracted. What we have to understand is the court has taken cognizance of this matter in a very limited manner and we should not jump to any conclusion as the preliminary inquiry is in place and then we will get to know whether the allegations which the commissioner of police has raised against the Home Minister are true or not. If you speak of what we call “Hafta Vasuli”, then the commissioner in his complaint against Deshmukh to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray mentioned that the Home Minister had called a police officer to his residence, where his staff asked him to target bars and restaurants in the millennium city to collect about Rs 50 crore.
We have to understand that none of these transactions would have happened in white, or at least to the direct account of the home minister. Further, any person holding a political post, and especially a post of an eminent ministry of the government will not risk his position and status by committing such glaring illegalities. This case has been sensationalized due to the parties involved in it. We have mechanisms in place to tackle corruption in the country but we have to be a little more patient and wait for the CBI inquiry of the ex-Home Minister and when that happens, I am sure this mystery would be solved.
In the present case, the media has highlighted so much political influence that it seems very difficult for government officials to carry on with their responsibilities. So, what steps should be taken to mitigate such happenings in the future?
For this, one must understand that we are talking about a person who is the head of the police department the Commissioner. A person at such a rank is extremely skilled and knows how things work in his field. So to say that he does not know the law and its procedure would be an incorrect statement. Moreover, if we speak of criminal justice, there is an offence called “abetment of crime”. So as a police commissioner when you know that certain criminal activities are taking place and a very infamous officer is being made either a scapegoat or being utilized to abet a crime, you also tend to become an abettor to the crime as you are supporting the commission of that crime and you cannot hold a moral high ground that I was clueless and was pressurized.
The case that started with an SUV, the first issue being the discovery of gelatine sticks, now suddenly has become a case of “Hafta Wasuli” which are are two very different things.. What we need to ask ourselves is whether it’s actually a political corruption issue or is it just a matter of media not reporting properly. Yes, certain criminal activities have taken place, I’m not negating any facts, but the SUV is found, and then coming to a restaurant and Hafta Wasuli are different things. The facts in this regard are not even correctly stated so one must go through the authenticity of the news first and then come to any conclusion.
Why according to you has this issue hit headlines? Is there something landmark in this case?
It’s definitely not the first time when a police personal has been suspended or arrested. Also, it is not the first time a politician has been questioned for corruption. So, I don’t think there is anything landmark in this case. It’s the limelight and media trial surrounding the case which has created an aura of sensationalization around the case. According to me, as a particular case, gets media attention, people start talking about it without taking into consideration pertinent issues critical to criminal jurisprudence. We speak of IPC, encounters, and the involvement of the Home Minister but the thing is if a specific group tries to target India’s richest person, I think it has made headlines, as nobody would have expected that he would be targeted in such a manner. So I think that is why this case has become a national headline.
As the number of Covid-19 cases is increasing, we see a lot of black marketing and other malpractices being carried. So, what measure can an individual take to curb corruption?
First of all, we have to see the data in a holistic manner. When we look at the data not just with regards to India but with respect to the countries where the second wave has already occurred we have to see whether the hospital system of those countries is facing similar difficulties and challenges or not. There is a huge surge in the number of covid cases as compared to last year and it’s really problematic. Also, we have to understand the fact that there is no medicine or vaccine by any company in the world which can guarantee the cure for the same as R&D is still going on. In fact, before the second wave, attempts were being made to produce more medicines to match the population of India. We have to understand that building a proper medical infrastructure and research ecosystem takes time and is still developing from the experience and hard work of professionals. We must understand that it’s not a matter of corruption, it’s a matter of the sheer volume of the population that we have and we are succumbing to the pressure of the population due to the unprecedented nature of and spread of the Coronavirus at such a remarkable speed.
I think we were as ready as any other country at the time of the surge in cases in cases of the coronavirus in 2020. So to blame someone is not right at this crucial point in time and also people were not ready and were not willing to adhere to basic health etiquettes. The rallies and protests have been taking place across the country and people have been quite lackadaisical in their approach and not adhering to COVID-19 protocols. So I don’t think it’s only a matter of corruption. Let’s give the bureaucracy and the health care workers the credit that they deserve. One should focus on the positive side of things which in this case is that a global pandemic has brought civil society together in an effort to mitigate the spread of the virus and provide assistance wherever possible.
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