June 17, 2021 11:35:23 pm
Over a decade after he was arrested in connection with the alleged custodial killing of Lakhan Bhaiya for which he was subsequently acquitted, Pradeep Sharma has, once again, found himself on the wrong side of the law.
On Thursday, NIA arrested the former cop in connection with the Mansukh Hiran murder case, which is also linked to the Ambani terror scare case.
It is another episode to add to Sharma’s controversial record as a police officer. In the past, he has faced allegations ranging from being in touch with underworld gangster Chhota Shakeel to custodial killings and bribery.
Sharma, who is an officer of the 1983 batch that spawned several “encounter specialists”, has always managed to land back on his feet after every bit of trouble.
The son of a college professor, he was dismissed from the police force in 2008 on allegations of having links with the underworld. He appealed this order in the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal, which ruled that he should be reinstated. The state government later appealed this before the Bombay High Court.
Two years later in 2010, however, he was arrested by an HC-monitored special investigation team (SIT), led by the then deputy commissioner of police K M M Prasanna, in connection with the Lakhan Bhaiyya fake encounter case. Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiyya, an alleged Chhota Rajan aide, was killed in a fake encounter at Nana Nani Park in Andheri (West) in 2006.
A total of 22, including 13 police officials, were chargesheeted by the SIT in connection with the case. Here too, Sharma was the only cop acquitted by the trial court.
Some years later in 2017, Sharma again found himself not only reinstated, but posted as the senior of the anti-extortion cell of Thane police, led by former Mumbai top cop Param Bir Singh, whom NIA has questioned in connection with the Ambani terror scare case.
Within a month of taking charge, Sharma arrested Iqbal Kaskar, a fugitive gangster and Dawood Ibrahim’s younger brother. He probed several high-profile cases during his posting at the anti-extortion cell, some of which are now facing allegations of bribery made in the last one month.
Sharma then changed track and entered politics even before his term as a cop was over. Ahead of the Assembly elections in 2019, Sharma applied for voluntary retirement and contested from Nallasopara on a Shiv Sena ticket.
He, however, lost to Kshitij Thakur by over 40,000 votes. It was widely believed that Sharma was planning to contest the next election from Andheri (East), where he lives. He runs an NGO called PS Foundation through which he does outreach to local communities.
An officer, who has observed the trajectory of Sharma’s career, said, “His arrest by NIA may put a spanner in his plans. In the past, he has managed to wriggle out of situations where he has had to face the law. This is, however, a high-profile case so it will be interesting to see how things work out for him.”
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