Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh announced on Wednesday that Sachin Vaze had been as assistant police inspector of Mumbai’s crime branch pending an investigation into the death of Mansukh Hiran.
“We will take appropriate action against Vaze if he is involved in his death,” Deshmukh said in the state assembly.
Hiran was the owner of an SUV that had been found filled with explosives near Antilia, industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s home, on February 25. Hiran had reported the vehicle missing a few days before, and vehemently denied any involvement in the incident.
He went missing on March 4 and his body was found the next day.
Days before his death, Hiran had sent a letter to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, claiming that he was being hounded by the police and some mediapersons who treated him “as an accused” in the matter. Among the police officials named in his letter was Sachin Vaze.
This wasn’t Vaze’s first brush with controversy.
Over 15 years ago, he was chargesheeted in the 2003 custodial death of Khwaja Yunus. The charges include murder, destruction of evidence, and concealment of Yunus’s body. Vaze resigned from the police in 2007, but he was reinstated last year, even though the murder case is trial, and Vaze and his fellow accused haven’t been cleared of the charges.
The murder of Khwaja Yunus
“My son was killed 18 years ago. Since then, I’ve religiously read the newspapers every day with the hope that I will read the news of his killers being punished,” said Yunus’s mother Asiya Begum, 75. “Then, in June 2020, I learned that Sachin Vaze has been reinstated in the police force. All my hopes of justice were smashed.”
Yunus was 27 when he was arrested in Maharashtra’s Parbhani on December 25, 2002. He was held in connection with a , a suburb of Mumbai, on December 2 that had killed two people and injured 39.
Yunus, a software engineer, was arrested by the Powai CID and was in police custody for a few days. His brother visited him in jail and said he was “weak and unable to stand”, . On January 6, 2003, Yunus was dead.
The police said he had died while trying to “escape”, a claim that was in a subsequent investigation by the CID. An eyewitness said Yunus was tortured and assaulted in custody.
Four police personnel – assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze and constables Rajendra Tiwari, Sunil Desai and Rajaram Nikam – were then . The Maharashtra CID stated that the four cops had “conspired” in his death. They were suspended in 2004.
Since then, however, the case has dragged on in court.
Vaze resigned from the police in November 2007 after the rejection of his repeated requests to be reinstated. In 2008, he and was a member, albeit an inactive one, until his reinstatement in 2020. According to , however, the chief minister has said Vaze was a member “till 2008” and did not renew his membership.
Seventeen years after Yunus’s death, Vaze, Tiwari, Desai and Nikam were on June 6, 2020, after the approval of a review committee headed by Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh. An by joint police commissioner Nawal Bajaj said the decision was made in view of the shortage of police personnel caused by the Covid pandemic.
“The four personnel...have been directed to resume service in view of the peculiar circumstances,” the affidavit said.
Asiya Begum approached the high court, asking for contempt charges to be brought against Param Bir Singh and other officials, , citing a 2004 court order to suspend the four policemen and conduct an enquiry. The that the court’s suspension order had not said anything about reinstatement.
So, Vaze, Desai and Tiwari were reinstated to the local arms unit of the police while Nikam joined the motor vehicles department. One week later, Vaze was moved to the crime intelligence unit. Here, he was handed a number of high-profile cases, including investigations into and the . Vaze also led the team that from his house in connection with Naik’s death.
It’s been an eventful career for Vaze. He joined the Maharashtra police in 1990 and was posted in Gadchiroli before being transferred to Thane in 1992. He soon became a member of the Mumbai police’s infamous “encounter squad”.
‘Justice has not been given’
Asiya, who lives in Parbhani, told Newslaundry that Vaze’s reinstatement was an “injustice”.
“Sachin Vaze is the murderer of my son, and they reinstated him and even promoted him,” she said. “The court case against him and others is still going on...If they had killed the son of someone from the government, would they have reinstated them in the same way?”
She continued: “It’s been 18 years since we have been fighting for justice for our son but instead, the government is doing favours for my son’s killers. We sold our belongings and took loans to fight the case. But still, justice has not been given to us.”
Asiya believes the government reinstated Vaze to “settle scores with their adversaries”. She also brought up the 17 other people who had been arrested with Yunus in the bomb blast case. Since then, , nine have been released due to the lack of evidence and eight acquitted. “The other boys who were arrested with him are presently doing well in life,” Asiya said. “If my boy had been alive, he would have also been doing well.”
Asiya is now 75. She said she will “fight for her son” until her death.
“I will even go to the Supreme Court to get justice for him,” she said. “I have collected all the newspaper articles written about my son. Someday, there will be a newspaper cutting of his killers getting punished.”
Yunus’s brother, Hussain, told Newslaundry that Asiya attends all the court hearings in the case of his brother’s death, despite suffering several ailments. “She hopes that one day, we will get justice,” he said. “My father died of sorrow but he also fought the case with the hope we’d get justice. We still have faith in the judiciary. But what the Maharashtra government did was shocking.”
Newslaundry reached out to Param Bir Singh and Anil Deshmukh for comment. This story will be updated if a response is received.