March 31, 2021 10:59:27 pm
THE CRIME Intelligence Unit (CIU), which till recently was commanded by controversial Assistant Inspector Sachin Waze, was envisaged as an ancillary unit providing intelligence and logistical support to different units of the Mumbai Police. Over the past three decades, since its inception in 1990, the unit, however, has built a “roguish” image finding itself embroiled in encounters been questioned by human rights activists as well as senior police officials.
The CIU was the brainchild of the then joint commissioner of police (crime) R D Tyagi, who set up the unit in 1990 after sub-inspector Lakhmersingh Sardar was gunned down by Khalistani terrorists at Vikhroli in 1990.
Tyagi’s brief for the unit was that it should act as the “eyes and ears” of the Mumbai Police and gather intelligence on terror organisations and the underworld.
“Tyagi sir rued the loss of our men and said we should get intel (intelligence) regarding all these movements taking place in Mumbai,” said retired police officer Fatesingh Gaikwad, who was the first officer incharge of CIU.
He added, “(Tyagi) Sir strictly instructed that CIU will not investigate any case and only collect intel.”
After the formation of CIU, Gaikwad was made incharge with 18 officers working under him and their role was to stay in touch with the central agencies like Intelligence Bureau, RAW and Central Bureau of Investigation, gather intelligence from them as well their own sources and, accordingly, feed them to field unit officers at zonal crime branch units.
A former Mumbai police commissioner, M N Singh, said, “CIU was a feeder unit, which would feed inputs to other units, and then they would take action. CIU did not have any rights to investigate.”
Depending on the circumstance, however, CIU, on instruction from superiors, got sensitive cases to investigate. The first case that it ever investigated was the 1993 Mumbai bomb blast that took place outside the regional passport office in Worli.
“Many policemen were involved in the investigation of the case and, for every blast case, a different investigating officer was appointed. The department needed the involvement of more officers, so I was made an investigating officer of the blast that took place outside the passport office and it was three months after the blast took place,” Gaikwad added.
While another officer, who was incharge of the unit requesting anonymity, said CIU was a logistical department.
“We would keep an updated record on the release of any criminal and pass on the input to the zonal unit asking them to keep a close watch on movement. We would also go to court when a high-profile gangster was being produced as their gang members would come to meet them and, accordingly, we would make a confidential report and submit it to our superiors,” said another retired police officer.
The inclusion of so-called encounter specialists into the unit is, however, when it started going downhill. The first time the unit courted controversy was the alleged fake encounter of a peanut vendor, Abu Sayama alias Javed Fawda, in 1997. Retired assistant commissioner of police Vasant Dhoble, who was the then assistant inspector, was heading CIU.
A petition was subsequently filed by a human rights organisation regarding 135 encounters, including Fawda’s encounter, between 1995 and 1997. An inquiry was ordered by a principal sessions court judge, A S Augiar, who concluded that the encounters were fake; however, it was ruled out by the Bombay High Court. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled the matter in the favour of the police.
With an attempt to divide the workload, CIU was divided into two units: one remained at the police headquarters in South Mumbai and another was located in Andheri called CIU suburbs. The CIU based in main office would collect information from the South Mumbai area, while the other unit would gather intelligence of the suburban areas. Former encounter specialist Pradeep Sharma was made incharge of the unit with Waze as his subordinate.
During their spell in the CIU suburbs unit, an engineer identified as Khwaja Yunus allegedly died during custodial interrogation. He was brought in for questioning related to the 2002 Ghatkopar bomb blast case. Waze and three other constables were arrested in the case and, subsequently, suspended from the force in 2004.
Owing to allegations put forth against the CIU suburbs unit, IPS Meera Borwankar issued an order in 2004 instructing to shut the unit.
Since September 2004, apart from providing logistical support, CIU was also given the power of operation that means that the officer working in the unit could raid bars operating illegally, while they could also investigate sensitive cases assigned by superiors, an officer said.
Since Waze was made incharge of CIU, the unit that was primarily formed with an intention to collect intelligence, started appearing in the limelight due to the handling of some of the most high-profile cases like the TRP scandal, Instagram fake follower case, Dilip Chabria matter and Hrithik Roshan’s fake email case.
An officer added, “For the past couple of months, it looked like the purpose with which this unit was formed has dissolved.”
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