Updated: April 14, 2021 10:40:45 am
Former police officer and “encounter specialist” Pradeep Sharma appeared before the NIA on Wednesday in connection with the Mukesh Ambani bomb scare case. Sharma, 58, is no stranger to controversy, from being dismissed for alleged links to the underworld to being charged and later acquitted in the fake Lakhan Bhaiyya encounter case.
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Who is Pradeep Sharma?
Pradeep Sharma is better known for being one of the Mumbai Police’s “encounter specialists”, a bunch of officers known to have gunned down several gangsters in police encounters in the 1990s. Due to the menace of the underworld in Mumbai in the 90s, some leeway had been given to these officers to go after the underworld. Several of these encounters however were later found to be staged. Sharma, who is known to be involved in over a 100 such ‘encounters’, had later been arrested by the police for allegedly carrying out a staged encounter at Nana Nani Park in Versova where an alleged underworld operative, Ramnarayan Gupta alias Lakhan Bhaiiya, had been gunned down by Sharma and his team. Sharma was however acquitted by the court while 13 other cops were found guilty. One of those cops, Vinayak Shinde, has been arrested by NIA in connection with the Ambani terror scare case.
Dismissal and reinstatement
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Sharma was dismissed from the police force in August 2008 under Article 311 of the Constitution after alleged telephone conversations between Sharma and Dawood henchman Chhota Shakeel tapped by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) resulted in an inquiry followed by dismissal. In 2009, however, the Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) him. But, in 2010, he was arrested in connection with the alleged fake encounter of criminal Lakhan Bhaiyya and spent four years behind bars only to be acquitted in 2013 for lack of evidence. Sharma’s acquittal was subsequently challenged in the Bombay High Court by the state. He was the only one to be acquitted as 13 other cops in his team were convicted and given life imprisonment.
In 2017, Sharma was reinstated and eventually made the senior of the Anti Extortion Cell of the Thane police led by Param Bir Singh, the former Mumbai Police Commissioner who was also questioned by the NIA on Wednesday. Within a month of taking charge, Sharma arrested Iqbal Kaskar, fugitive gangster Dawood Ibrahim’s younger brother.
Voluntary retirement and politics
Ahead of the state assembly elections in Maharashtra in 2019, Sharma applied for voluntary retirement and contested from Nallasopra on a Shiv Sena ticket. Sharma, however, lost to Kshitij Thakur by over 40,000 votes. It is believed that Sharma is planning to contest the next elections from Andheri (East) where he resides. He runs an NGO called PS Foundation through which he does outreach to local communities.
Sachin Waze link
Sharma is said to be the mentor of Assistant Police Inspector Sachin Waze who has been arrested by the NIA in the Ambani terror scare case. In the 90’s when Waze was posted in Andheri, Sharma, already a big name then, had been his mentor. It is believed that the two have been close to this day. The duo are also believed to be close to Param Bir Singh, who was their reporting DCP in the 90’s. Sources said it is this proximity that may have led the NIA to summon Sharma for questioning. Also Vinayak Shinde, who has also been arrested by NIA, was close to Sharma and involved in the Lakhan Bhaiya fake encounter case.
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