The Bombay high court on Monday refused to grant bail to former policeman Pradeep Sharma arrested in connection with the Antilia bomb scare case and the killing of businessman Mansukh Hiran, but expressed anguish about the manner in which the National Investigation Agency had probed the case.
A division bench of Justices Revati Mohite Dere and R N Laddha noted that the NIA's probe was silent on the co-conspirators involved with dismissed policeman Sachin Waze in planting gelatin sticks in an SUV parked it outside the residence of industrialist Mukesh Ambani.
The agency has not done an "in- depth" investigation, it said.
On February 25, 2021, an explosives-laden SUV was found near industrialist Mukesh Ambani's residence 'Antilia' in south Mumbai.
Businessman Hiran, who was in possession of the SUV, was found dead in a creek in neighbouring Thane on March 5 last year.
"We express some anguish in the manner in which the NIA has investigated the charge of conspiracy of parking of the Scorpio vehicle near the residence of a prominent businessman and planting of gelatin sticks in the said vehicle, on February 24 and 25, 2021," the court said.
It further noted that the NIA was silent on persons with whom Waze had conspired to plant the gelatin sticks.
"We, prima facie, find that the NIA has not done investigation with regard to the same i.e. with respect to the co-conspirators involved in planting of gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle," the court said.
The bench further said that several questions were unanswered by the NIA with respect to the case pertaining to parking of the vehicle laden with gelatin sticks.
"We are afraid that the NIA has not done in depth investigation with respect to the same i.e. as to with whom Sachin Waze had conspired for parking the Scorpio vehicle laden with gelatin sticks near a prominent businessman's residence. As noted above, Sachin Waze could not have done it by himself," the court said.
"We hope and trust, that the NIA, in right earnest, will investigate this aspect further," HC said.
The bench noted that the probe agency's chargesheet does not prima facie disclose that Sharma was involved in the conspiracy of planting of gelatin sticks in the vehicle.
The NIA had not chargesheeted the former policeman for the offence pertaining to the vehicle, it added.
"Prima facie, we feel that a feeble attempt was made later to connect the appellant (Sharma) with Sachin Waze only when we questioned the NIA, as to with whom Sachin Waze had conspired with, in planting of gelatin sticks in the Scorpio vehicle," it said.
Referring to a statement of a cyber security professional, who is a witness in the case, the court said a sum of Rs 5 lakh was given to this person by the then Mumbai police commissioner to prepare a report that the Telegram Channel “Jaish-ul-Hind” on which a post had appeared on February 27, 2021 claiming responsibility for the Antilia terror scare, has been resolved by the Special Cell, Delhi police, and that, the mobile phone number linked with the said Telegram Channel was found to be used from within the premises of Tihar Jail.
"Why such a huge payment was made to the said witness i.e. cyber expert, what was the interest of the CP, is a grey area, for which there are no answers," the court said.
While refusing to grant bail to Sharma, the bench noted that as per evidence submitted by the NIA in the Hiran killing case, it prima facie points to the complicity of Sharma.
"The possibility of the appellant, a retired police officer, having clout, tampering with the witnesses, cannot be ruled out," the court said while rejecting bail.
Sharma had approached the high court last year challenging a February 2022 order of a special NIA court rejecting his bail plea.
The allegation against Sharma was that he had helped his former colleague Waze in eliminating businessman Mansukh Hiran.
Sharma was arrested in the case in June 2021 and is presently in judicial custody.