The buzz that former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh may have fled the country as investigators were about to close in on him in a bunch of cases has triggered sparring between the Congress and the BJP.
"When the [Sachin] Waze episode happened, I had said that if I was in the government, I would have arrested Param Bir Singh first. This means the centre used this IPS officer to defame the state government and so that is why they have aided Param Bir Singh in escaping abroad," Maharashtra Congress Chief Nana Patole said.
BJP spokesperson Ram Kadam countered him, saying, "When Param Bir Singh wrote a letter and brought the Rs 100-crore extortion allegation to the forefront the fight started then. So that Param Bir Singh does not name his political bosses, has he been sent abroad by his political bosses?"
The charges came a day after Maharashtra Home Minister Dilip Walse Patil said that Mr Singh, whose handling of the bomb scare near the home of India's richest man Mukesh Ambani earlier this year has raised questions and is facing a series of extortion cases, was missing.
"Along with the Union Home Ministry, we're also searching for his whereabouts. I've heard something like that but as a government officer, he can't go abroad without government clearance. We've issued a Lookout Circular and if he went away, then it is not good," Mr Patil said, on reports of Mr Singh fleeing to Russia.
"Whether it is a minister, officer, or Chief Minister, there are limitations and without the permission of the government of India one cannot go outside the country. No one can cross these limitations. What action can be taken will have to be discussed with the centre. Maharashtra government is looking for him and once he is found we will decide," the Home Minister added.
On February 25 this year, an SUV with gelatin sticks was found at Carmichael Road, near the residence of Mukesh Ambani. The car belonged to Mansukh Hiren whose body was later found in the Kalwa creek in Thane.
A police officer, Sachin Waze, was named as the prime conspirator in the case of planting the explosives and the subsequent murder of Mansukh Hiren. Mr Waze was known to be close to Param Bir Singh and had direct access to him despite being just an Assistant Police Inspector.
Mr Singh was transferred from the post of Mumbai police commissioner in March after Mr Waze's arrest by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
The NIA chargesheet in the case has not named Param Bir Singh as an accused but several revelations in the chargesheet could make things difficult for Param Bir Singh.
After his transfer to the Home Guard department, the IPS officer made sensational accusations against then state home minister Anil Deshmukh of asking police officers to collect bribes from hotel and bar owners, an allegation the latter denied.
But Mr Deshmukh stepped down from his post subsequently as the CBI registered a case against him. Mr Deshmukh has also not responded to summons by the Enforcement Directorate which is probing money-laundering allegations against him. The ED has asked for help from the CBI to trace Mr Deshmukh.
Mr Singh has also been named in at least four extortion complaints and Maharashtra Police Chief Sanjay Pandey recently sent a proposal to suspend Mr Singh and other police officials named in the extortion cases, but the state Home Department has sought more details, news agency PTI reported.