Court says other cops also followed prime accused Sachin Waze’s order but were made witness in the case; adds that NIA failed to provide any evidence
Dismissed Assistant Inspector Riyazuddin Kazi outside a court in April 2021. File pic
The Bombay High Court on Friday granted bail to dismissed cop Riyazuddin Kazi, an accused in the Antilia threat case. The court said that there was no evidence in the charge sheet to prove Kazi’s involvement in the case. The NIA had claimed that Kazi was part of the conspiracy along with main accused Sachin Waze, another dismissed cop, to plant a Scorpio outside industrialist Mukesh Ambani’s residence. The agency had also alleged that Kazi helped destroy the evidence and was also part of the conspiracy to kill Thane-based businessman Mansukh Hiren.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Kazi in April 2021 after the arrest of Waze in the Antilia case. The agency had relied on statements of Kazi’s colleague and prime witness API Prakash Howal. Kazi’s lawyer Advocate Zeeshan Khan, however, told the court that Kazi was only following instructions given by his superior Waze. The lawyer also mentioned that there were several others who did the same but were made witness in the case while Kazi was made an accused.
Kazi’s counsel Dr Yug Chaudhary told the court, “The NIA cannot pick and choose, in as much as, all others, i.e. API Prakash Howal, P N Yuvaraj Shelar, P C Shivaji Desale, K W 1 (protected witnesses) and others, who were also acting under the directions of Sachin Waze and whose role is similar or even greater, have been made witnesses, for reasons best known.”
Riyazuddin Kazi (in red and white striped shirt) outside a court in April 2021
The NIA’s case was that Kazi willingly took part in the well organised conspiracy hatched by Waze, and aided him in arranging fake vehicle registration number plates that were used in the offence. It also claimed that Kazi aided Waze in destruction of evidence by illegally taking over CCTV camera DVRs that had captured movement of alleged vehicles used by Waze during the placing of Scorpio vehicles laden with explosives. However, while filing the charge sheet, the NIA did not invoke the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and the Arms Act against Kazi. He was charged for destruction of evidence and criminal conspiracy.
After hearing both sides, the court said, “Prima facie, there is not a single statement in the entire charge sheet, at least not pointed out to us, to show that the appellant [Kazi] himself destroyed any of the seized articles. It is the prosecution case that the appellant, along with Sachin Waze, destroyed the articles in Mithi river. However, a perusal of the statement of Howal…is to the contrary. It appears from the said statement that both of them, i.e. the appellant and Howal, were asked to wait at a distance from where the appellant and Howal watched Sachin Waze destroy the articles by throwing them in the Mithi river.”
“Admittedly, during investigation, nothing incriminating was found/seized from the appellant. No material has been pointed out by the NIA to show that the appellant was involved in any way in preparing fake number plates,” the court order read.
It added that, “Evidence collected by NIA shows that the role of the appellant is similar to the other officers who are witnesses in the said case. The statements of witnesses, prima facie, shows that all were acting under the directions of Sachin Waze. It is pertinent to note that Sachin Waze vide letter dated 27th February 2021 had issued an order directing the appellant and Howal [witness] to conduct an inquiry with respect to the persons preparing car number plates in Thane; to check the CCTV footage of the shops in respect of 4 number plates and to submit a report.”
“We find that the appellant [Kazi] appears to have no knowledge either of planting explosives in the Scorpio vehicle or of the parking of the said vehicle near Antilia or of the commission of the murder of Mansukh Hiren,” the court said and granted bail to Kazi. Advocate Zeeshan Khan said, “We had full faith in the judiciary, and justice has prevailed over everything. He was honest and an upright officer and we will get the uniform back soon.”
Day in 2021 when Waze wrote to Kazi and others asking them to inquire about car no. plates
Month when Kazi was arrested in the case