Mumbai: Investigative agencies committing fratricide

Free Press JournalUpdated: Monday, October 25, 2021, 02:52 AM IST
Former Mumbai police chief Param Bir Singh (L) and Rashmi Shukla |

By D Sivanandhan

As an Indian Police Service (IPS) officer, I spent almost four decades in the force and dealt with all types of cases. I have also worked both in the IB and the CBI for ten years. Most difficult or sensitive cases which one had to deal with were the ones which involved family feuds, infighting within the family, fratricide cases, and dirty family linen being washed in public.

The most infamous fratricide case in our history is that of Aurangzeb, who in his hunger for power and the crown killed his two brothers, while the third one fled the country. Our history is replete with many such examples of fratricide.

What is currently happening between various investigative agencies and police departments in our country is nothing short of fratricide. It is painful to see the way sister agencies are trying to cause damage and harm each other’s reputation. The CBI, the country’s premier agency, has summoned the Director General of Police (DGP), the topmost police officer of Maharashtra state, and the Chief Secretary (CS), the topmost bureaucrat in the state. The CBI is investigating allegations of corruption against former state home minister Anil Deshmukh made by a senior IPS officer of the DG rank.

The same officer is being investigated against by the Mumbai Police, Maharashtra State CID, and the Mumbai Crime Branch. He is reportedly untraceable and has not appeared before the Chandiwal Commission as well as the Mumbai Police despite several summons being issued against him.

The Mumbai Crime Branch which is investigating the alleged phone-tapping controversy has summoned the Director of CBI to record his statement since he was then posted as DGP, Maharashtra. The basic question is, who in the Crime Branch has the rank or qualification to question a CBI-Director.

It all looks like a slugfest between all the Central agencies – CBI, Income-Tax, Enforcement Directorate (ED), National Investigation Agency (NIA), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) on one side -- and the Maharashtra Police, the Mumbai Crime Branch, and the State CID on the other hand. A similar situation is prevailing in West Bengal where all the Central agencies are conducting their own investigations against officials of the state government and the State police agencies are reacting and responding by conducting their own investigations against officials of the Central agencies.

While it all seems politically motivated, it is our very own policemen who are being used as tools and pawns. Unfortunately, there is a fear that it may take no time for them to become sacrificial lambs depending on which way the political winds blow. This kind of targeting of fellow officers has never happened before in the history of Independent India. It is shocking to see that policemen have forgotten their foremost duty of protecting national security and maintaining law and order within the country, among other duties, and are concentrating on mudslinging between sister agencies.

The alleged death by suicide case of film actor Sushant Singh Rajput is one bizarre case of how almost every agency in the country encircled it in no time. The case moved from the local Mumbai Police to the Crime Branch to the CBI to the ED to the NCB faster than any other case in history. While the Mumbai Police shouted its lungs out saying that it was a case of suicide, it was turned on its head in no time into a murder conspiracy and every other conceivable theory.

It is more than 15 months now, but no agency has come forward with a confirmed case of what happened. The inter-agency battle of one-upmanship and the race to degrade the other agency has resulted in a case being botched up entirely.

When Ishrat Jahan Raza and three others were killed in an encounter by the Gujarat Police in June 2004, what followed was a shocking inter-agency battle. While the Ahmedabad Police and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) maintained that Ishrat Jahan and her associates were working for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and were killed in a genuine police operation, the CBI declared that the encounter was staged and accused the then Police Commissioner PP Pandey of plotting the encounter along with Rajendra Kumar, the then Additional Director of the Intelligence Bureau (IB). The CBI however did not comment on whether those killed were from LeT.

Rajendra Kumar was declared a suspect as it was allegedly the IB report which informed the Gujarat Police that Ishrat and her associates were part of the LeT sleeper cell. Assistant Director of the IB, MK Sinha, was also made an accused along with Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) DG Vanzara of the Ahmedabad Police and Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Girish Singhal.

A bitter public feud ensued between the IB & CBI after the then IB Chief Asif Ibrahim vehemently opposed CBI’s plan to arrest Rajendra Kumar. The entire issue led to a major political controversy which pitted the Gujarat state police against the Central Agencies and led to arrests of several policemen and damaged reputation of many agencies. The result – till date it is not clear what happened -- but careers of a lot of policemen have been destroyed permanently.

Padma Bhushan S Nambi Narayanan, an aerospace engineer working with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in-charge of the cryogenics division, was falsely arrested by the Kerala Police led by the then senior IPS officer Siby Mathews in 1994 on charges of espionage. He spent 50 days in jail. According to him, when he was in jail, two officials from the IB tortured him relentlessly and were reportedly forcing him to confess that two senior ISRO officials were the ones who were stealing national secrets.

The CBI later dropped all the charges and stated that the entire case was fake. Even the Supreme Court exonerated Narayanan and passed strictures against the Kerala Police. After almost 25 years of fighting for justice, the Supreme Court finally cleared Narayanan of all charges and even the Kerala Government paid him compensation. However, Siby Mathews who had clearly fabricated the case was let-off without any action taken against him and was even made the Chief Information Commissioner of Kerala from 2011– 2016.

This case had pitted the Kerala Police and IB against the CBI. Reams and reams of newspaper were printed on how the Kerala Police along with the IB had ruined the career and life of a reputed scientist. It also resulted in a lot of mudslinging by sister agencies (CBI and IB) on each other.

The only silver lining of the case is that Narayana was cleared of all charges, conferred the prestigious Padma Bhushan in 2019 and was also given a compensation of Rs 1.3 crore by the Kerala government.

After the November 26, 2008, terror attacks in Mumbai, the Government of India launched a super-ambitious programme called the National Intelligence Grid or ‘NATGRID’. An intelligence master database structure to counter terrorism where all the intelligence and data would be gathered and made accessible to all the premier agencies for effectively countering terrorism and related activities. Ten of India’s premier investigations and surveillance agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), IB, NIA, CBI, NCB, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), ED among others were to be part of it.

With a massive initial budget of Rs 3,400 crore, the entire programme became operational by 2014. It has been more than seven years now, but the programme has not lived up to its expectations, primarily because of the reluctance of all the agencies to share intelligence which can be accessed by other agencies. There is a clear lack of trust among agencies.

Politicians, bureaucracy, media, and informants often pit one agency against the other for their own gains. There is a clear vulnerability among agencies which is being exploited by everyone, it is high-time all agencies work as one cohesive unit towards one goal – safety of our nation and the citizens, uphold the values of our constitution and ensure justice is delivered on time and smoothly.

The Writer of this article is the Director General of Police (retd), Maharashtra, former Commissioner of Police, Mumbai. He has worked as JD CBI (west zone) for three years and in IB for six years

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