Mumbai’s former top cop Param Bir Singh, who has been “missing” ever since May and who was declared a “proclaimed offender” in an extortion case by a metropolitan magistrate court in Mumbai last week—landed in the city on Thursday where he was, up until a short while ago, the police commissioner.
Singh showed up at Mumbai’s Crime Branch unit a little before 11 am on Thursday and was questioned for more than six hours. He is expected to join the ongoing probe in an extortion case lodged against him by a hotelier in Goregaon, who alleged that Singh, along with now-sacked API Sachin Vaze, had extorted ₹9 lakh from him, as well as forced him to purchase two smartphones worth ₹2.9 lakh. This is one of the many extortion cases filed against him in the state.
In a letter written to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on March 20 earlier this year, he had accused NCP leader and former state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh of corruption. Singh alleged that Deshmukh had asked Vaze and two other officers to illegally collect ₹100 crore from bars and hookah parlors every month in the city.
In the immediate aftermath of this letter, Deshmukh stepped down from his post as home minister of the state in April and is now in judicial custody in a money laundering case being investigated by the Enforcement Directorate.
The state government formed the single-member Justice Chandiwal commission to probe Singh’s allegations against Deshmukh. Over the last six months, the Commission has issued multiple summons as well as a bailable warrants against Singh, but the ex-police commissioner did not show up.
Earlier this month, he filed an affidavit before the commission stating that he did not wish to depose in front of it.
A 1988-batch IPS officer, Singh has held several important postings throughout his tenure. He was a DCP in Mumbai during the ’90s when underworld gangsters like Dawood Ibrahim, Chhota Rajan, and Arun Gawli were at their peak.
Under his guidance and leadership, “sharpshooter squads” tasked with gunning down key members of prominent gangs were formed, comprising encounter specialists who worked directly under his command.
In 2017, Singh was appointed as Thane police commissioner, where he busted a fake international call center racket in which over 6,000 US nationals were cheated. 772 call centre employees were also taken into custody.
Arguably, his biggest win as Thane police commissioner was when its local crime branch arrested underworld gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s brother for allegedly extorting a local builder.
According to an India Today article, he also initiated multiple crackdowns on the drug mafia in Thane, and in one of the operations, busted a ₹2,000 crore drug syndicate belonging to Vicky Goswami, a noted drug lord in Thane. The case carried such import that the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) came to Thane to monitor it. With Singh’s help, they were able to arrest and consequently deport Goswami to the US where he was lodged in jail.
Apart from serving as the police commissioner of Mumbai and Thane, Singh has also held the post of Director-General of the Anti-Corruption Bureau, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Detection) in Mumbai, Police Superintendent in Chandrapur and Bhandara, as well as the Anti-Terrorism Squad’s Additional Commissioner of Police.
The last posting came at a time when the ATS was investigating the 2008 Malegaon blasts cases and had arrested prime accused Sadhvi Pragya and Lt Col Prasad Purohit.
During the 26/11 terror attacks that put the city of Mumbai under siege for three days, Singh had countered terrorists at the Oberoi Trident Hotel in South Mumbai. He was appointed as the Police Commissioner of Mumbai on February 29, 2020, and oversaw several high-profile cases including Republic TV’s TRP scam and the Sushant Singh Rajput case.
However, his tenure as Mumbai’s top cop was short-lived. On March 18, 2021, he was removed from his post following a security incident that involved a parked car containing gelignite sticks that were found outside businessman Mukesh Ambani’s home.
The missing cop
Over the past week, it is not Singh’s past credentials that have made him controversial—but his counsel’s submissions in court and his evident lack of faith in the Mumbai Police that is investigating him.
Last Thursday, a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and MM Sundresh, while considering Singh’s petition seeking protection in the cases of corruption and extortion filed against him, questioned his whereabouts.
“You have not joined any investigation,” Justice Kaul told Singh’s legal counsel, according to Live Law. If you are sitting abroad and approaching the court…our suspicion might be wrong…if the court gives a favorable order only then he’ll come back. It might be so.”
The bench went on to state that no kind of protection could be granted to Singh until his whereabouts were known. “No protection, no hearing till we have the answer to the question—where are you?” said Justice Kaul.
The curious case of Param Bir Singh’s absence took a sharp turn in the apex court on Monday when senior advocate Puneet Bali, appearing for Singh, apprised the court that his client was very much present in the country at the moment but fears a threat to his life if he landed in Maharashtra at the moment.
Bali further told the court that most of the extortion and corruption cases lodged against his client were from bookies and extortionists against whom Singh had taken action earlier.
He (Bali) also read out alleged transcripts of Whatsapp messages between Singh and DGP Sanjay Pandey, in which the latter allegedly forces Singh to withdraw his letter written to Thackeray on March 20, and also threatens him that if he did not comply, then “many cases will be registered against you”.
Referring to Singh’s prayer before the Bombay HC, Bali told the apex court that his client was ready to “appear before any officer of the court of CBI”.
According to Live Law, the bench hearing Singh’s petition on Monday remarked that the alleged conversation between Singh and Pandey was sending out a wrong message to the common man.
“We do find the picture very disturbing,” the bench observed. “An earlier commissioner seems to show a lack of faith in the police! We wonder what would happen to the common man and what kind of faith would they have in the police. The matter has become curious and curious in the battle between the then Home Minister and the Police Commissioner.”
In its order on Monday, the SC bench granted Singh protection from arrest in the multiple cases lodged against him by the Mumbai Police, and further directed him to join the ongoing investigation.
On Wednesday, several news outlets (citing an anonymous source) reported that Singh was in Chandigarh.