Why Sanjay Pandeys appointment as Mumbai top cop raises eyebrows
Sanjay Pandey, the new commissioner of Mumbai Police | Photo: PTI

Why Sanjay Pandey's appointment as Mumbai top cop raises eyebrows

The Mumbai Police Commissioner is winning hearts with his civic-friendly moves, but his key role may be to take on BJP leaders, it's suspected

The sudden appointment of the 59-year-old Sanjay Pandey as Mumbai’s top cop last month raised many eyebrows. After all, the 1986 batch IPS officer barely had four months left before retiring. But ever since he has assumed office, Pandey, called the Maharashtra government’s “blue-eyed boy” by the Bombay High Court, has been seen in a civic friendly avatar — but there could be other reasons behind his last-minute appointment.

The appointment of Pandey, who is the state’s senior-most officer, as Mumbai’s Police Commissioner is in the context of prevailing heated political atmosphere in the state, where the MVA (Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi) government is at loggerheads with the BJP, accused of “systematically targeting” Sena leaders through Central investigating agencies.

In MVA circles, Pandey’s predecessor, Hemant Nagrale, was seen ineffective in taking the BJP head-on. Pandey, on the other hand, is seen as an effective antidote to the BJP.

Actions over past year

Over the span of the last year, during which Pandey was serving as acting DGP and Nagrale as Mumbai commissioner, a total of five FIRs were registered against former police chief Param Bir Singh. Of these, only one was registered with the Mumbai police, while the other four were transferred to the CID, which reports directly to Pandey. Singh, who was incognito for months, had alleged that former home minister Anil Deshmukh was extorting money through dismissed police officer Sachin Waze. Deshmukh is currently lodged in prison.

Singh had also submitted an affidavit before the Supreme Court, in which he attached an alleged conversation between him and Pandey. In it, Pandey allegedly asked Singh to withdraw his letter to Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray; the latter, in the letter, had levelled allegations of extortion against Deshmukh.

On the surface, Pandey’s civic-friendly initiatives such as removing abandoned and unused vehicles from the streets of Mumbai, cracking down on noise pollution as well as wrong-side driving, and organising Sunday street marathons, have kept him in the limelight. His social media presence is booming and his initiatives — aimed at gaining the trust of Mumbaikars — seem to be working so far.

The post for a reason

However, it is important to remember that the man has been assigned the CP’s post for a reason. First of all, the CP’s office reports directly to the state Home Ministry (unlike the DGP’s office), thereby making it easier for the MVA to give him directions. Secondly, with a limited number of days left to serve, Pandey doesn’t have much to lose.

To say the very least, the circumstances under which Pandey was appointed as acting DGP of the state last year were strangely peculiar; his name was not recommended for the post by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), yet the MVA government pushed for his appointment. Pandey was removed from the post of acting DGP on February 18 (a few days before he was appointed as Mumbai CP) after the Bombay HC pulled up the state government for appointing him as acting DGP in the first place, and questioned if the state was “favouring” him by encouraging his prolonged continuance in the post despite there being three other names being recommended by the UPSC. Pandey’s name did not feature in this list.

“We find from records that respondent Sanjay Pandey [acting DGP] happens to be a blue-eyed officer of state government,” said a division bench of Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice Makarand S Karnik. “Once he is appointed as DGP, he will not be in a position to discharge duty as per the Supreme Court ruling in the Prakash Singh case.”

With relatives of Shiv Sena leaders, including that of Uddhav Thackeray and Sanjay Raut, being placed under the ED and IT scanner, and against the backdrop of the state budget session that was ongoing last week, a prolonged meeting was held between Sena minister Eknath Shinde, party secretary Milind Narvekar, and Pandey, at the latter’s office — an omen that things were about to get rough for the BJP in Maharashtra. Earlier this month, Pandey had also met with NCP Chief Sharad Pawar.

Probe into ED officials

After Raut alleged earlier this month that the ED was running an extortion racket against builders in Mumbai, the Mumbai police initiated a probe into four ED officials. The police also lodged a criminal complaint against IPS officer Rashmi Shukla in the “illegal” phone tapping case.

Furthermore, an FIR has been registered at MRA Marg police station based on a complaint filed by AAP leader Dhananjay Shinde, against BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in the Maharashtra Legislative Council Pravin Darekar. Shinde has alleged that Darekar had falsely posed as a labourer in order to contest the Mumbai District Central Cooperative Bank election for the post of director under the labourer category.

Even though Mumbai police moved in a hurry to arrest Darekar based on the FIR registered against him for an alleged criminal breach of trust, cheating and forgery, in the context of the bank fraud, a single-judge bench of the Bombay HC upheld Darekar’s request for pre-arrest bail on Tuesday and extended his interim protection from arrest by two weeks.

Speaking with The Federal on condition of anonymity, a former Maharashtra DGP said: “He [Pandey] is trying to make the best of the few days which he has in the force. He is adopting various civic measures that will make him popular in the eye of the public. But the fact of the matter remains that whatever time period he has in the service is not going to be extended.”

The former official feels the Bombay HC describing Pandey as a blue-eyed boy brings down his “credibility”. The appointment of Pandey to the top post at the fag-end of his career also smacks of ulterior motives of the government. He will be seen as a pliable officer by the people, said the retired DGP.

The officer further said Pandey’s attempt to remain in the limelight would give him some visibility but that may not necessarily solve long-term problems related to policing.

Read More
Next Story