The resignation of Maharashtra home minister Anil Deshmukh, soon after the Bombay High Court ordered a CBI probe into the allegations of corruption levelled against him by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh, highlights the rot that has taken deep roots into the system. It is time to clean up the mess created by the police-politician nexus as it has made a mockery of the rule of law. A free and fair investigation is needed to ferret out the facts in this case involving extortion charge against him. And, the larger issue of police reforms needs immediate and urgent attention. It is public knowledge that the state police force is highly politicised and has become a tool in the hands of political masters. The High Court has rightly stated that the allegations made by a serving police officer against the home minister can’t be left unattended, and a probe by an independent agency is necessary to instil public confidence and safeguard the fundamental rights of citizens. Things cannot get weirder than this in India’s commercial capital: the police officers are assigned to carry out extortions from bar owners and send the money to the minister on a monthly basis; the police officers, whose job is to stop terrorists from planting bombs, were asked to plant a bomb to scare the nation’s top most industrialist!
The sordid episode, exposed by the city Police Commissioner himself in a letter addressed to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, brought to the fore the simmering friction between the two coalition partners — Shiv Sena and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP). One of the disturbing revelations was that Deshmukh was using an assistant police inspector Sachin Vaze, a discredited officer, to carry out extortions. Vaze, suspended from service for 12 years, had joined the Shiv Sena and got himself reinstated after the Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government assumed office in November 2019. He also got a coveted posting, handling high-profile cases -– Ambani’s gelatine sticks case, Sushant Singh Rajput suicide and architect Anvay Naik suicide case in which he arrested television anchor Arnab Goswami. It is apparent that Vaze enjoyed political patronage and blessings from the police top brass. Unfortunately, in the entire unsavoury saga, no one is talking about the plight of the restaurant owners in Mumbai who are at the receiving end of the officially-sanctioned extortion. The politicisation of the police force, reducing it to a tool to extort people, is the single most important reason why India should go in for a complete overhaul of the police administration system. A police force that acts in an extra-judicial fashion and poses a threat to the life and security of citizens is a threat to democracy.
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