Written by Mohamed Thaver , Sadaf Modak | Mumbai | Updated: June 8, 2020 2:07:56 am
Khwaja Yunus, whose custodial death led to the suspension of Sachin Vaze and 3 other policemen.
Assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze, who was reinstated in the Mumbai Police Friday along with three others — 16 years after being suspended for his alleged involvement in the custodial death of 27-year-old Khwaja Yunus in January 2003 — has donned many hats during the years he was away from the force. He joined the Shiv Sena, created a social media platform in Marathi, developed a mobile phone application, assisted investigating agencies, appeared on several news channels and wrote two books.
On Saturday, Vaze, police constables Rajendra Tiwari and Sunil Desai resumed duty in the local arms unit, while constable Rajaram Nikam was reinstated in the motor vehicle department.
Despite repeated attempts, Vaze did not respond to calls.
Sources said that over the last few years when Vaze saw his mentors, senior policemen (retired) Pradeep Sharma and Daya Nayak, being inducted back into the police force after facing a slew of allegations and enquiries, he too was hopeful despite the ongoing Khwaja Yunus case. Vaze was alleged to have disposed Yunus’ body after the purported custodial killing.
A senior officer said that Vaze had started out in Thane, where he along with other officers played a role in keeping the Suresh Manchekar gang, active in the area, under control. When an IPS officer from Thane moved to Mumbai, he got Vaze along with him. Here, he was posted with the crime branch CIU where he got in touch with “encounter specialist” Pradeep Sharma.
“Vaze has been close to Sharma right through his career. Working with the team, he too started being called an ‘encounter specialist’, although primarily he was in Sharma’s shadow,” an officer said.
“He (Vaze) was media savvy and had his name and photos appear in newspapers and TV channels. In 2004, however, due to his alleged role in the Khwaja Yunus case, he was suspended and later submitted his resignation in 2007. However, the resignation had not been accepted and hence he could be reinstated,” an officer said.
After tendering his resignation, Vaze had joined the Shiv Sena in 2008. His lawyer said he was in the Sena for some time.
Known to be good with technology, in 2010 he also started a social networking site called ‘Lai Bhari’. Vaze had also reportedly developed a software.
He also wrote two books, one on the Sheena Bora murder case and the other on David Headley, the LeT operative involved in the 26/11 terror attack, who later turned an approver. “Away from the force, his services were also used by some investigative agencies as well. He also appeared on several news channels as an ‘expert’,” an officer said.
On December 25, 2002, Yunus along with three others was arrested by the Mumbai police under Prevention of Terrorism Activities Act for their alleged role in a bomb blast at Ghatkopar on December 2. Subsequently, the POTA court had acquitted all the men arrested with Yunus.
On January 6, the last day Yunus was seen alive, his then co-accused had seen him being stripped and severely assaulted. Later, the police claimed that Vaze and three others were taking Yunus to Aurangabad to follow a lead and that the vehicle they were traveling in met with an accident and Yunus had escaped. Based on an inquiry ordered by the POTA court, the CID booked Vaze and the three constables on charges of murder.
Yunus’ family also approached various courts seeking to make other policemen accused in the case, who eyewitnesses had said, to have seen assault him. The state government did not sanction for them to be made accused and pleas regarding adding them to stand trial remain pending before the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the trial before the Sessions Court went on in a staggered manner with the first witness deposing on January 17, 2018. The witness named four other policemen who he had seen Yunus being assaulted.
Based on this testimony, the then special public prosecutor moved a plea in court to add the four policemen as accused. Within two months, the prosecutor, Dhiraj Mirajkar was removed by the state government.
Yunus’ mother, Asiya Begum, has approached the High Court challenging the removal. The state government informed the HC that since the petition is pending, it will not appoint another prosecutor to conduct the trial. Since 2018, the trial, therefore, has remained stalled. The petition in HC is yet to be decided upon.
The accused policemen, including Vaze, have also contested the murder charge against them stating that based on the chargesheet filed by the CID, there is no evidence to show that they had been involved in assault or murder of Yunus. His mother Asiya Begum, based in Parbhani, said that she was apprehensive that the reinstatement of Vaze could adversely affect the case which has already been prolonged for so many years.
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