Param Bir Singh removed as Mumbai police chief amid Vaze row

Rahul M
·6 min read
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. Photo:  Bhushan Koyande/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
Former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh. Photo: Bhushan Koyande/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

Under flak for 'mishandling' of the bomb scare outside Mukesh Ambanis residence, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday transferred Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh from the post.

Senior IPS officer Hemant Nagrale, holding additional charge of Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP), will be the new Mumbai Police Commissioner and replace Singh, who has been posted to the state Home Guard, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said.

Deshmukh, who met Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray earlier in the day, made the announcement on Twitter amid speculation in media over Singhs handling of the Sachin Vaze episode.

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Vaze is at the focus of a probe by the National Investigating Agency in a case related to the recovery of an SUV with explosives near Ambani's house in Mumbai.

Pram Bir Singh (left) and Hemant Nagrale (right). Photo: The Quint
Pram Bir Singh (left) and Hemant Nagrale (right). Photo: The Quint

Vaze, arrested in the case on March 13 for his alleged role in the crime, was attached to the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of city police's crime branch till recently.

The transfer of Singh comes amid rising pressure on the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in the state over the alleged involvement of former API Sachin Vaze in the case related to explosives being discovered in an SUV outside Antilia on 25 February.

Vaze, who is believed to be Singh’s close aide, was allegedly associated to Mansukh Hiren, the owner of the SUV that was laden with explosives.

While Hiren had reported the SUV to be stolen days before it was discovered outside Antilia, his wife in an FIR lodged on 7 March has alleged that the car was in Vaze’s possession for months till it was returned to them on 5 February.

Param Bir Singh, a 1988-batch Indian Police Service officer, had taken over from IPS officer Sanjay Barve on February 29, 2020.

According to sources, Param Bir Singh was shunted out following the row over Mumbai Police officer Sachin Vaze’s alleged involvement in placing an explosives-laden vehicle near industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence in Mumbai.

Vaze was on Sunday remanded to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody till March 25.

Singh, recently, also made news as he spearheaded the probe in the alleged TRP scam, where households were apparently asked to keep channels switched on the entire day. At least five news and entertainment channels were found allegedly involved in rigging the Television Rating Points (TRP) to attract more advertisements.

Singh has previously served as the Director General (DG) of the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) and the Police Commissioner of Thane.

In Thane, he had supervised several high profile cases including the investigation into the Ephedrine drug bust case, in which former actor Mamta Kulkarni was also named. During Singh’s tenure as the police commissioner, the Thane police also busted a large-scale fake call centre racket.

Earlier in the 90s, Singh had also led the special squad, which conducted several encounters against underworld criminals.

In 2005, he had landed in a controversy for ‘falsely framing’ the co-owner of Provogue, Salil Chaturvedi, in a drug case. Singh was the ADG (law & order) during the arrests of nine activists by Pune Police in connection with the Elgar Parishad case. Singh had overseen the arrest of BJP MP Pragya Singh Thakur in connection with the Malegaon 2008 blast case.

The Maharashtra government has been on the backfoot following the revelations over the alleged involvement of Sachin Vaze, a suspended police officer who was reinstated by the Thackeray dispensation, in the Ambani bomb scare case.

‘Action will be taken against the one who has committed a mistake and the Maharashtra government will not back anybody in such a case,’ Maharashtra Textile Minister Aslam Shaikh said while interacting with media persons against the backdrop of the arrest of city police officer Sachin Vaze by the NIA.

Earlier, asked about some media reports speculating about the transfer of Mumbai's Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh over the Waze episode, Shaikh said it is not right to talk about such a step if anyone (else) has committed a mistake.

'Action will be taken if any official has committed a mistake. It is not right to talk about transferring the DGP, CP or joint CP if anyone (else) makes a mistake.

Maha govt refutes reports of rift in the alliance

Amid reports of rift in the Shiv Sena-led Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra over the handling of Sachin Vaze’s alleged role in the discovery of explosives outside Mukesh Ambani’s house, a meeting was held at the residence of Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray with a few ministers of the Cabinet.

The meeting chaired by Thackeray was attended by state ministers Nitin Raut, Balasaheb Thorat, Varsha Gaikwad, Ashok Chavan and state Congress chief Nana Patole.

Addressing the media, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar on Tuesday, 16 March, refuted reports of a possible rift between the allies in the state government.

“There are no problems in Maha Vikas Aghadi. The Maharashtra government led by Uddhav Thackeray is working properly,” Pawar said while addressing the media in Delhi.

Earlier, reacting to questions about differences in the allies over Sachin Vaze’s alleged involvement in the Ambani case, deputy CM Ajit Pawar said that action will be taken against anybody who is found guilty.

“There is no problem. State chiefs of Shiv Sena, NCP, and Congress were at the meeting (with CM Uddhav Thackeray). We are working together. There are no differences between us, I want to tell this to the entire state,” he said, as quoted by ANI.

“This is MVA government. We will not protect anyone. A thorough investigation will be carried out. Even if someone belonged to any political party, we will investigate them, as is being done by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS),” he added.

Responding to a query on possible action against Mumbai Police Commissioner Parambir Singh, Ajit Pawar said that the government has no intention of protecting anybody.

“The Chief Minister said in the Assembly that if someone is doing anything wrong, the government will take immediate decision if there’s evidence. But no action will be taken against anyone until there is evidence. The government does not want to protect anyone,” ANI quoted him as saying.

Vaze was leading the Crime Branch and the probe in the Ambani bomb scare case along with the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS).

During the investigation, wife of the SUV owner Mansukh Hiren filed an FIR against Vaze, accusing him of murdering her husband. She also said that Vaze was in possession of the Scorpio for months till 5 February.

Soon after the FIR, the Maharashtra BJP demanded Vaze’s immediate suspension and arrest. The Devendra Fadnavis-led Opposition accused the Shiv Sena of deliberately shielding Vaze due to his links with the party.

Amid rising pressure, Vaze was transferred from the Crime Branch. While the Sena still defended Vaze, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said that he was being transferred for a fair investigation.

The NIA took over the case on 8 March and Vaze was summoned for questioning on 13 March, following which he was arrested at 11:50 pm and remanded to a 12-day NIA custody by a special court. Inputs: The Quint,News18, PTI, ANI