Mumbai: When IPS officer Hemant Nagrale took charge of the Mumbai Police force Wednesday, he said his priority would be to repair the tarnished image of the police force and restore its lost credibility.
It is for this very purpose that the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) government pulled Nagrale, a 1987-batch IPS officer, out from the post of the state Director General of Police (DGP) to take charge of the city’s police force after shunting out controversial top cop Param Bir Singh.
Nagrale has been largely free of political controversies and is a low-profile officer, who had briefly taken additional charge of the Mumbai Police force in 2014 and has even served on deputation with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
“The main intention behind the transfer was to repair the damage to the Mumbai Police’s image, maintain law and order and finish the groupism that has been brewing in the police. Considering he is someone who has been largely free of controversies and has seniority and experience, he is well suited to do these tasks,” said an NCP minister, who did not want to be named.
The MVA government shunted Singh out after facing much embarrassment due to the arrest of a Mumbai Police officer, Sachin Waze, in connection with the recovery of an explosives-laden car outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s house.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Waze Saturday last week. Waze is also part of an inquiry by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) into the death of businessman Mansukh Hiren, who owned the Mahindra Scorpio car that was found outside Ambani’s south Mumbai residence ‘Antilia’. Hiren was found dead in a creek in the Thane district on 5 March.
Waze, seen as Singh’s protege, was first suspended from the police force in 2004 and is facing trial under charges of murder and destruction of evidence in the Khwaja Yunus custodial death case. In June last year, a review committee that Singh headed approved Waze’s reinstatement into the force.
Speaking at Lokmat’s ‘Maharashtrian of the year’ award function, state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh Wednesday, said, “It (Singh’s transfer) is not an administrative transfer.”
“There were some serious findings in the probes by NIA and ATS about the conduct of Param Bir Singh’s colleagues and these can’t be overlooked. The CM and I discussed, and thought there shouldn’t be any hindrance in the inquiry and it is best if we make the transfer.”
Low-profile officer who had complained about ill-treatment
Nagrale, 58, was chosen more as a middle ground between the three constituents of the MVA — the Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress.
A senior state government official said some from the NCP were in favour of replacing Singh with 1988-batch IPS officer Rajnish Sheth.
“Rajnish Sheth’s name was also discussed. Like Nagrale, he has immense experience and is a very good officer, but Nagrale has a dhadakebaaz (aggressive and energetic) approach. Sheth is, in comparison, has a more gentle demeanour,” said a senior Shiv Sena leader, who did not want to be named.
To balance out the equation, the state government has appointed Sheth as the acting DGP, a post that Nagrale held before his appointment as the Mumbai CP.
“The leadership discussed this in great detail and reached the conclusion that Nagrale’s former postings as chief of the Navi Mumbai police force and particularly his experience with the CBI will be helpful for the requirements of the job. That’s why we decided to bring him out of the office of the state DGP to serve as Mumbai Police chief,” said the above-quoted Shiv Sena leader.
Nagrale was on deputation to the CBI from March 1998 to September 2002. Initially, he was posted as SP, Banking Security and Fraud Cell, CBI, Mumbai, and later as deputy inspector general (DIG) with the agency in Delhi.
The Mumbai Police had been locked in a conflict with the CBI over the probe into actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s death last June. Following the tussle, the Maharashtra government withdrew its general consent to the CBI last year.
Unlike his predecessor Singh, Nagrale’s career has mostly been free of political controversies.
The only major blot in his career so far was in 2008 when Nagrale’s wife, Pratima, wrote to the top political as well as police leadership, saying her husband was mentally and physically torturing him.
Nagrale was at the time posted at the Maharashtra State Electricity Board as additional commissioner of police. She later also hurdled allegations of owning disproportionate assets at him.
Nagrale was involved in another controversy in 2014 when he and two other senior officers — Himanshu Roy and Sanjay Barve — reportedly wrote letters to the state home department about alleged ill treatment by the then DGP, Sanjeev Dayal.
On the frontlines during 26/11 Mumbai terror attack
Nagrale, who hails from Maharashtra’s Chandrapur district, started his career in 1989 from his home district as assistant SP in the Naxal-affected town of Rajura.
He then worked as a deputy commissioner of police in Solapur, controlling the communal riots in the city sparked by the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
In 1994, Nagrale was posted as SP, Ratnagiri, and in 1996, as SP, CID, crime, where he investigated a paper leak of the Maharashtra Public Service Commission examination and a case related to multiple kidnapping and murders involving the Anjanabai Gavit family that ultimately resulted in capital punishment handed out by the Supreme Court.
During his stint with the CBI, Nagrale supervised cases such as the Ketan Parekh bank scam and cases involving Harshad Mehta. Nagrale had also assisted in the investigation of the Telgi fake stamp paper case.
On 26 November 2008, when parts of Mumbai were under siege by terrorists, Nagrale was posted as special IGP and director, vigilance, with the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited.
According to officers from Mumbai Police, Nagrale had spotted a bag of RDX in an area close to Taj Mahal Hotel, one of the targets of the terror attack, and summoned the bomb disposal squad. He also entered the Taj and rescued the injured, shifting them to hospitals, and removing corpses.
In 2014, Nagrale had taken additional charge as Mumbai CP when the incumbent chief, Satyapal Singh, took voluntary retirement to join politics. He has also worked as Navi Mumbai Police Commissioner from May 2016 to July 2018, and was elevated to the DG rank in October 2018.
The MVA government appointed him as the state’s director general of police in January this year.
(Edited by Debalina Dey)