Court denies interim bail to police officer Waze; NIA records statement

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(Eds: Clubbing related copies) Mumbai, Mar 13 (PTI) Troubles mounted for Mumbai police officer Sachin Waze, who has been facing heat in the murder case of businessman Mansukh Hiran, as a sessions court in Maharashtra's Thane district has refused to grant him interim bail and noted that there was prima facie evidence and material against him.

In a related development on Saturday, recording of Waze's statement by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which is probing the last month's recovery of gelatin sticks and a threat letter from an SUV, a Scorpio, which was found parked near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's residence in Mumbai, is going on at its office since noon, an official said.

The assistant police inspector reached the agency's office at Cumballa Hill around 11.30 am, the official said.

Mansukh Hiran, who was in possession of the SUV had claimed that it had been stolen a week earlier, but the case took a new turn when he was found dead in a creek in Thane on March 5.

In his application seeking pre-arrest bail on Friday, Waze said the FIR registered by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) didn't name name any person. He termed the FIR as 'baseless and without any motive', saying it was a result of a 'witch- hunt'.

Additional sessions Judge Shailendra Tambe, in the order that was made available on Saturday, refused to grant interim bail to Waze and said his custodial interrogation was required.

'This court is not agreed to grant interim bail to the applicant (Waze) because there is prima facie evidence and material against the applicant. The custodial interrogation of the applicant is necessary,' the order said.

Waze's lawyer A M Kalekar had sought the court to grant the police officer interim protection from arrest on the ground that he was cooperating with the investigation.

Additional public prosecutor Vivek Kadu, however, opposed and argued that the probe in the case was at a crucial stage.

The court, while refusing interim bail, noted that the charges in the case include section 302 (murder), section 201 (destruction of evidence) and 120 (b) (criminal conspiracy) of the IPC, which are serious offences.

'This court has found that on February 27 and 28, 2021 the deceased Mansukh Hiran was along with the applicant in Mumbai,' the court said.

It added that Hiran's wife in her complaint has specifically taken Waze's name.

'The informant (Hiran's wife) has made direct allegations against the applicant in the FIR. Hence, this court has come to the conclusion that the investigation is at initial stage,' the court said.

It directed the investigating officer of the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS), which is probing the case, to file an affidavit in reply to the plea, and posted it for hearing on March 19.

Waze had claimed that at the time when Hiran went missing and was allegedly killed, he was at Dongri in south Mumbai.

He had filed the plea under section 438 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) in the Thane district sessions court.

Under this section, a person can seek bail if he or she is apprehending arrest in a case.

In his plea, Waze said the complaint lodged by Hiran's wife is based on 'bald suspicion and is without any basis or motive'.

'It is trite law that a bald suspicion of the first informant regarding the commission of a crime cannot justify arrest of a citizen,' the plea said.

Waze's application further said that there is no incriminating material against him and that he has not even been named as accused in the case.

'Applicant (Waze) is a resident of Thane since long time. Even if he was a customer and acquaintance of the deceased, no motive can be attributed to the applicant from the bare reading of the FIR,' it said.

Waze, known as 'encounter specialist', was accused by Hiran's wife of involvement in her husband's suspicious death.

He was shunted out of the Mumbai crime branch earlier this week.

The ATS had registered a case of murder after recovery of Hiran's body against unidentified persons.

Waze, in the plea, said he was questioned extensively by senior officers of the ATS on March 8, during which he said that he was in south Mumbai at the relevant time (when Hiran was allegedly killed).

'On March 4 (entire day) the applicant was in South Mumbai. Thereafter during the intervening night between March 4 and 5, the applicant had been in Dongri area. The said fact is duly corroborated from the contemporaneous records such as Station Diary Entries of Dongri Police Station,' the plea said.

'There is a virtual witch-hunt in news and social media casting speculative aspersion regarding the applicants involvement on the basis of half-baked information without proper research, and pre-judging his guilt or innocence,' it added.

Waze said he was cooperating with the investigation and hence should be protected from arrest.

During his questioning by the ATS, Waze had denied using the SUV that was in possession of Hiran.

Waze, who was crime branch's Assistant Police Inspector, has been transferred to the Citizen Facilitation Centre (CFC) unit of Mumbai police.

Meanwhile, in his new WhatsaApp status message put on Saturday morning, Waze said 'the time to say goodbye to the world is coming closer'.

'3rd March 2004. Fellow officers from the CID arrested me in a false case. That arrest inconclusive till date.

Sensing the history is going to repeat. My fellow officers are on to falsely trap me. There's a slight difference in the scenario.

'Then probably I had 17 years of hope, patience, life and service too. Now I will have neither 17 years of further life nor service nor patience to live. I think the time to say goodbye to the world is coming closer,' the status read. PTI AVI SP DC NP NSK NSK