Waze's NIA custody extended till Apr 3; he says he was made scapegoat

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(Eds: adding court arguments, incorporating related stories) Mumbai, Mar 25 (PTI) The special court here on Thursday extended till April 3 the NIA custody of suspended police officer Sachin Waze in the Ambani security scare case, with the probe agency claiming that the alleged crime fell in the category of 'terrorist act'.

The National Investigation Agency also told the court it wanted to confront Waze with the other accused in the Mansukh Hiran murder, a related case, and also probe 62 unaccounted for bullets found at Waze's house.

Waze pleaded that he had been made a 'scapegoat'.

Waze (49), an assistant police inspector with Mumbai crime branch, was arrested on March 13 by the National Investigation agency. He was produced before the court on Thursday after his earlier remand expired.

The NIA, which has invoked the stringent provisions of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) against Waze, sought his custody for another 15 days.

'I have been made a scapegoat and have nothing to do with the case,' Waze told judge P R Sitre during the hearing.

'I was investigating officer of the case for one and a half days, and did whatever I could in that capacity. But there was suddenly change in some plan somewhere. I went to the NIA office on my own and was arrested,' he said.

Additional Solicitor General Anil Singh, the NIA lawyer, told the court that Waze's crime being 'a terrorist act' and as a person (Hiran) was also killed and explosives were planted, further 15-day custody was needed.

The probe agency recovered 62 bullets from his house for which he could not account, and it needed to probe why they were kept there, Singh said.

The police department had issued Waze another 30 bullets of which only five were recovered, the ASG said.

Waze's voice samples and some video clips showing him have been sent to the Forensic Science Laboratory, he said.

NIA also found that a suite was booked for 100 days at a plush hotel in south Mumbai by paying Rs 12 lakh and using a fake Aadhar card with a false name but Waze's photo as ID proof, and this has to be probed, the lawyer said.

Waze and his accomplices destroyed seven or eight DVRs (CCTV footage recordings) to eliminate evidence against them, the NIA said.

The murder of Thane businessman Mansukh Hiran -- who had claimed that the SUV with gelatin sticks found near Mukesh Ambani's house had been stolen from his possession -- was a connected case, and the NIA got the custody of two other accused arrested in that case from the Maharashtra Anti- Terrorism Squad only the day before, Singh said.

They need to confront Waze with the other accused, he added.

Waze's lawyer Aabad Ponda contended that theUAPA could not be invoked in this case. The gelatin sticks in the SUV were without a detonator and hence their recovery does not fall under the purview of the UAPA, he argued.

'Terrorist act' as defined under the UAPA must be against the country or a public functionary, and not just some famous individual, the lawyer argued.

After hearing the submissions, the judge extended the custody only till April 3.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters, Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut indicated that a judicial inquiry may be instituted to probe former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh's allegations that state home minister Anil Deshmukh had asked Waze and other police officers to collect money from bars and hotels.

In Delhi, Union minister Ramdas Athawale met President Ram Nath Kovind and sought President's rule in Maharashtra in the wake of Singh's allegation of corruption against Deshmukh and the Waze affair. PTI AVI VT ND KRK KRK