FPJ Editorial: Innocence, not patriotism, Wankhede

FPJ Editorial: Innocence, not patriotism, Wankhede

In the instant case, the CBI has not moved against him on its own. The first information report (FIR) was filed against Wankhede, superintendent VV Singh, intelligence officer Ashish Ranjan, an accused KP Gosavi and others at the instance of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Tuesday, May 16, 2023, 10:04 PM IST
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Sameer Wankhede | Photo: PTI

Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer Sameer Wankhede has only himself to blame for what has befallen him. It might be harsh to quote lexicographer Samuel Johnson who said “patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel” in the context of what the IRS officer said in response to the case registered against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation. He said he was being rewarded for being a “patriot”. He alone can explain how “patriotism” came into the picture in a criminal case, registered under various sections of the penal code. As someone who has used the law, forcefully and effectively against persons more powerful than an “IRS officer”, he should have known that patriotism has never been a consideration while filing cases. What matters is whether a person violated the law for his own selfish interests, whether pecuniary or not. The rule of law that governs the country dictates that nobody, including IRS officers, is above the law.

In the instant case, the CBI has not moved against him on its own. The first information report (FIR) was filed against Wankhede, superintendent VV Singh, intelligence officer Ashish Ranjan, an accused KP Gosavi and others at the instance of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) whose operations in Mumbai were led by him for a few years. In other words, the CBI, whose primary job is to investigate charges of corruption against Central government officers and staff, could not but act against him when the NCB asked the agency to do so. For a change, the NCB did not initiate action against him and others on the orders of someone like Wankhede. Instead, a special inquiry team had gone into the charges against him and found that there was prima facie evidence to bring him to justice. There is nothing arbitrary or extraordinary in the CBI case.

Wankhede had cultivated an image of himself as a brave, incorruptible, no-nonsense officer, who would not tolerate any interference in his work by any person or authority. In fact, he enjoyed adulation bordering on hero-worship among middle-class circles in Mumbai. However, the kind of Rolex watches, Ralph Lauren suits and Gucci shoes he began wearing did not show him in a good light. Nor did the questions raised about his status as a scheduled caste and his first marriage to a Muslim woman under the Muslim personal law suggest that he was a model of rectitude. It is a truism that there has never been a perfect murder or a perfect crime. There will always be at least one flaw or lapse that gives the investigating team the break it always looks for.

In Wankhede’s case, the raid he organised on the cruise ship Cordelia off Mumbai harbour, in which actor Shah Rukh Khan’s son Aryan Khan was arrested, proved to be his nemesis. It was apparent from the word go that the NCB authorities were less than fair in dealing with the boy who, to quote the Bard, was more sinned against than sinning. As more and more reports and videos about the raid appeared in the media, it was discernible even to an ordinary person that the NCB team was unfair, if not vindictive. Names of the accused were added or removed to suit the convenience of the investigators, strengthening suspicion that there was more than met the eye in the whole episode. The case caused only disrepute to the NCB. If the chargesheet is to be believed, Wankhede sought Rs 25 crore from the actor to save his son, finally settled for Rs 18 crore, and obtained an advance of Rs 50 lakh.

It is for the CBI court to pronounce its verdict on the charges against Wankhede. He is entitled to the benefit of the doubt as the law of the land supposes that everyone is innocent till proven guilty. However, if there is an element of truth in the FIR, Wankhede and Co deserve the severest punishment, for they were misusing their authority to harass and extort money. Instead of resorting to the silly argument that he was being targeted for his patriotism, he should defend himself and prove before the court that he had no vested interest in arresting Aryan Khan.

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