As the legal wrangling between Arnab Goswami led Republic TV and Param Bir Singh headed Mumbai Police continues, with the police filing complaint against the editorial team of the Republic TV for the broadcast of its show titled “Revolt against Param Bir Singh?”, a police official named Sachin Vaze has been entrusted with the responsibility of leading the investigation against the channel.
It is pertinent to note that API Vaze is the same police officer who was facing murder charges in a 2003 custodial death case and was reinstated by Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh earlier in June this year. Vaze, popularly known as ‘Encounter Specialist’, was suspended from the police force about 16 years ago and his suspension was revoked by a committee headed by Param Bir Singh.
API Vaze suspended for his involvement in the custodial death of a 27-year-old software engineer
Vaze was embroiled in the custodial death case of a 27-year-old software engineer named Khwaja Yunus, who was arrested by the Mumbai Crime Branch-CID on December 25, 2002, under the now-repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA). Yunus was arrested along with three others in connection with a bomb blast that took place in Mumbai’s Ghatkopar on January 7, 2003. Yunus was seen alive last on January 6, when reportedly he was stripped and assaulted by the police, according to the other accused in the case. The police, in its defence, claimed that Yunus had escaped from a police jeep near Lonavala while being taken to Aurangabad for investigation.
Yunus’ family moved court which transferred the case to the state criminal investigation department (CID). The CID, in its report, concluded Yunus’ murder as a case of custodial death and charged vaze and three others with the destruction of evidence.
An encounter specialist with Mumbai Police had said that Yunus had died due to third degree interrogation used by Vaze. He had said that, “Sachin punched Yunus in the stomach and poured a bucket of cold water on him. The fragile Yunus died on the spot.”
Facing custodial death charges, Vaze had been suspended on March 3, 2004. He resigned three years later, in November 2007 after his repeated requests for reinstatement were rejected by the government. After resigning from the police force, Vaze had joined the Shiv Sena party, along with another police officer Pradeep Sharma, who was also a part of the ‘encounter squad’ with Sachin Vaze. Sharma had also reportedly joined Shiv Sena and had unsuccessfully contested the state Assembly elections in 2019 on the Shiv Sena ticket from Nallasopara.
Sachin Vaze was named in an extortion racket
Sachin Vaze, who was once posted in the Anti Extortion Cell, is also accused of running an extortion racket. In 2017, Local Crime Branch (LCB) of the Vasai police had named Vaze as a wanted accused in an alleged extortion racket which was being investigated by it. Anil Yadav, a government doctor and Right To Information (RTI) activist who was arrested by police several cases of extorting money and threatening builders in the Vasai-Virar region, has named Vaze as an accomplice. Yadav had told police that Vaze was a key part of his extortion racket.
“We have substantial evidence against Sachin Vaze’s involvement in the extortion racket, and so we have named him as a wanted accused in the case. Yadav’s victims, against whom he filed Right to Information queries and later extorted lakhs of rupees from them, have also come forward,” a senior LCB officer had said.
Software engineer’s mother moves court to file contempt pleas against Singh and then DGP for reinstatement of API Vaze
After Param Bir Singh reinstated Sachin Vaze in the Mumbai Police in June this year, Khwaja Yunus’s mother Asiya Begum had reportedly filed contempt pleas in the Bombay High Court against Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh and the then additional director general of police (current principal secretary (special) home department) Amitabh Gupta. She accused Param Bir Singh and Gupta of reinstating the police officer guilty of killing her son while in custody.
Vaze’s closeness with Param Bir Singh and his long association with Shiv Sena has been alleged by many as a key to his reversal of fortunes. With Republic TV turning the heat on the Mumbai Police and Mumbai Police Commissioner, Singh has resorted to one of his most trusted aide, Vaze, to preside over the investigation into the cases against the channel and its Editor-in-chief.
The raging conflict between Republic TV and Mumbai Police
Arnab Goswami and Republic TV have maintained that they have been systematically targeted through a witch-hunt by the Mumbai Police. Goswami has claimed that ever since his channel covered the lynching of Hindu Sadhus in Palghar and asked uncomfortable questions of the Mumbai Police and the state government, they have been subjected to an unmitigated witch-hunt campaign.
Arnab Goswami and the Mumbai Police are at loggerheads since the prime time show aired on Republic Bharat over the lynching of Hindu sadhus in Palghar. Several FIRs were filed against the news anchor and he was called to the police station in Mumbai where he was grilled for more than 11 hours. A case was also filed against him and his channel Republic TV for broadcast on April 14 and 15 regarding the Bandra migrants incident.
Arnab had also alleged that one of his reporters and the camera person was unlawfully detained by the Maharashtra government when they were on a trail of an investigative story in Navi Mumbai. Another Republic TV journalist Pradeep Bhandari was recently encircled physically by the Mumbai Police and was detained illegally. It was alleged that Pradeep was assaulted as well and was not provided with access to lawyers.
A few days back, Republic TV was also targeted in a TRP manipulation case when the Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh convened a press conference and insinuated that Republic TV paid bribes to manipulate its TRP. However, hours later Republic TV cited Hansa Research’s report to allege that the complaint of TRP manipulation carried the name of India Today and not Republic TV.