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HomeCRIMEParam Bir Singh Saga: Who Will Police The Police?

Param Bir Singh Saga: Who Will Police The Police?

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Former Mumbai police commissioner Param Bir Singh

It all started on February 25, 2021, with the discovery of an abandoned Scorpio SUV containing some explosives parked near the residence of the billionaire Mukesh Ambani. A few days later the mystery deepened as Mansukh Hiren, the owner of the Scorpio, was found dead in a creek near Thane. Both were, however, ‘imperfect’ crimes and the NIA arrested API Sachin Waze on March 13.

Never before in this country two non-bailable warrants have been issued against an IPS officer with 33 years of service besides a Look Out Circular (LOC) to prevent him from fleeing the country.

The incidents resulted in police commissioner Param Bir Singh being shunted out to the home guards department. The home minister Anil Deshmukh, cited ‘serious and unforgivable errors’ by officers working in the commissioner’s office as the reason.

Stung by the loss of the ‘lucrative and powerful’ post of police commissioner, Param Bir Singh responded by dropping a ‘letter bomb’—a letter to the chief minister, in which he accused the home minister of running an extortion racket. In his letter, as the Sunday Guardian reported, he stated, “The Hon’ble Home Minister expressed to Shri Waze that he had a target to accumulate Rs. 100 crores a month. For achieving the aforesaid target, the Hon’ble Home Minister told Shri Waze that there are about 1,750 bars, restaurants and other establishments in Mumbai and if a sum of Rs. 2-3 lakhs each was collected from each of them, a monthly collection of Rs. 40-50 crores was achievable. (sic)”

Param Bir Singh was allegedly chosen for the top job in the city police to help in the collection of funds for the party. He asked for the services of a suspended encounter specialist with 63 scalps under his belt to help him in the task. That request was conceded.

From the letter, it is clear that Waze only must have told him about the alleged demand of the home minister. Are we to believe that the commissioner was so naïve that a very junior official told him of an outrageous demand by a high-ranking functionary and he accepted it as true? Why did he not try to verify it independently and take action against the API if found untrue? Apparently, he did not, because he is silent on that aspect. Does he mean to say that just about anyone could claim that a man in a high position wanted something illegal done and he would oblige? If he accepted an illegal demand and did not take legal action on it immediately as he should have, it means that he became a party to it—writing a letter after he was shifted from the post makes it prima facie suspicious.

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Julio Ribeiro, a former Mumbai police commissioner himself, minces no words, “From all the evidence now disclosed in the press, most pieces in the jigsaw puzzle seem to have fallen in place. Param Bir Singh was obviously chosen for the top job in the city police to help in the collection of funds for the party. He asked for the services of a suspended encounter specialist with 63 scalps under his belt to help him in the task. That request was conceded. It was not easy to reinstate an officer facing a murder charge in a court of law and who had been suspended 17 years ago! Yet, it was accomplished…An excuse had to be concocted to justify an illegal, unethical and immoral order. That excuse was Covid. But it was summarily discarded after Waze was back in uniform. He was placed in the chair where he could indulge in his favourite pastime of amassing wealth—for himself and his benefactors.”

“Waze was facing trial for the murder of an under-trial prisoner charged with a terrorist crime committed in 2002. The trial has not begun, though nearly two decades have elapsed. Waze applied in 2007 for reinstatement in service. It was rejected. In 2020, he applied again and the committee facilitated the wrongdoing. On reinstatement, he reported directly to Param Bir, seven ranks his senior, ignoring the intervening supervisors who could do nothing about it because the commissioner was Waze’s patron…Waze drove to his office in the commissioner’s compound in a Mercedes…He was operating from a room in the Oberoi Hotel that had been booked in some other name for a hundred days!”

Param Bir Singh had reportedly given the now dismissed API Sachin Waze a target of Rs. 2 crore to be extorted every day!

“The home minister could not have summoned two comparatively very junior officials to his house and asked them to collect Rs. 100 crore a month from bar owners and others who contravene regulations unless he was aware that these are the officers entrusted with the collection of the spoils. And he could not but have known that the police commissioner relied on Waze for special tasks.”

The story did not end here. India Today reported on April 30, 2021, that Param Bir Singh wrote a letter to the CBI in which he alleged that the acting DGP Sanjay Pandey had told him that he would ‘settle’ ongoing inquiries against him if he withdrew his complaint against former Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh. Param Bir Singh alleged that there was a ‘malicious’ attempt by authorities in Maharashtra to ‘thwart’ the investigation that had been initiated against Anil Deshmukh. Anil Deshmukh had stepped down as home minister after the Bombay High Court ordered a preliminary CBI probe against him.

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Never before in this country two non-bailable warrants had been issued against an IPS officer with 33 years of service besides a Look Out Circular (LOC) to prevent him from fleeing the country. Two open inquiries have also been initiated against him by the state anti-corruption bureau (ACB) over the corruption allegations made against him by two serving police inspectors.

He was placed under suspension after he materialized at a time of his choice, having been in hiding successfully for months. He surfaced after he was declared absconder by the court but only when he had secured Supreme Court protection from arrest.

This is an extremely sad commentary on the functioning of the police. If the massive resources of the Maharashtra police could not find a senior IPS officer in respect of whom the government have all sorts of details, how can they ever locate and arrest criminals about whom they do not know anything?

Mumbai police crime branch formally told a metropolitan magistrate’s court on November 1 that Parambir Singh had given the now dismissed API Sachin Waze a target of Rs. 2 crore to be extorted every day! They said that he had started the racket immediately after the controversial API was reinstated in service in 2020. In a telephonic conversation between a businessman Bimal Agarwal and Waze, which Agarwal had recorded, Waze is heard asking him to hand over a list of BMC contractors so that he can extort them. Waze is also heard saying that there is a lot of pressure on him from No. 1 (referring to Parambir), who had given him a collection target of Rs. 2 crores per day.

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On December 4, they filed a charge sheet against Param Bir Singh and three others in the aforesaid extortion case. This is the first charge sheet against him, who is facing multiple cases of extortion. In another extortion case of Rs. 15 crores, two serving inspectors were arrested in November.

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In this entire shameful episode, the point to be noted is that all sides cannot be right simultaneously. It is quite possible that all are guilty.

Even if we accept that the money was being or was to be collected for the home minister, given the history of widespread corruption in police and India’s social realities, there is little reason to believe that officers who commit such a despicable crime would be such selfless mahatma (noble souls) that they would hand over the last paisa to the minister and not keep anything for themselves. By any chance, even if they did not ‘cut’ their share out of that, they would still be guilty of committing the crime of extortion.

Param Bir’s letter to the CBI, irrespective of the fact whether it is factually correct or not, makes people lose faith in the system. If a high-ranking IPS officer alleges that investigation is being tampered with, there is no sanctity of police investigation left. How will the people ever have any faith in the criminal justice system?

When the Supreme Court asked Param Bir (through his lawyer) to disclose his whereabouts, he had the audacity to tell, “I am very much in the country but hiding as I face threat to my life.” In fact, every accused in the country could give this argument. On this preposterous claim, a Division Bench had observed, “We do find the picture very disturbing. An earlier commissioner seems to show lack of faith in the police! We wonder what would happen to the common man and what kind of faith they would have in the police.

As Mohamed Thaver wrote in the Indian Express, in early 2021, there were allegations of lobbying by several IPS officers in Maharashtra and of ‘power brokers’ deciding on postings in cahoots with the government.

This is proof that nothing at all has changed in the system in spite of the bogey of police reforms. If the police departments of the country have belied the expectations of the Supreme Court in its judgment in the case of Prakash Singh (2006), the reason is that the so-called police reforms ensuing from it are a hoax.

The problems of the Indian police do not stem from the cops having sold their souls to the politicians. It is too simplistic a description. It is a nexus of powerful people including police, bureaucrats, political leaders, industrialists, businessmen, criminals and influential media people which is systematically looting this country.  

Agreed that Param Bir is not convicted yet and as such nothing is proved against him. However, one thing that has conclusively been proved by his sordid saga is that the Indian police in general and the IPS, in particular, have lost all credibility in public perception beyond redemption. That they are generally corrupt is known to the people all along; however, the knowledge that they collect as much as Rs. two crores a day would put even dangerous ‘hafta-vasool goondas’ (criminals collecting extortion money) to shame! Indian police shall never recover from this body blow.

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Dr N C Asthana IPS (Retd)
Dr N C Asthana IPS (Retd)
Dr. N. C. Asthana, IPS (Retd) is a former DGP of Kerala and ADG BSF/CRPF. Of the 51 books that he has authored, 20 are on terrorism, counter-terrorism, defense, strategic studies, military science, and internal security, etc. They have been reviewed at very high levels in the world and are regularly cited for authority in the research works at some of the most prestigious professional institutions of the world such as the US Army Command & General Staff College and Frunze Military Academy, Russia. The views expressed are his own.

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