POLICE INSPECTOR Kalpana Gadekar’s desk at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) cyber police station is covered with paperwork. The pages — all in official ink — will form part of several chargesheets. Among the cases are an identity crime in which a man created a fake profile on Facebook in the name of a woman to defame her, a bank fraud in which Romanian nationals attached skimmers to ATMs, and the big catch of people who duped people on the pretext of giving them jobs by getting their data from online portals.
While Gadekar, who investigated the Jiah Khan abetment to suicide case before it was transferred to the CBI, has had assistance from juniors to compile the chargesheets, there are fears if she would remember the intricate technical details of the case that defence lawyers tend to stick on to. The fears are valid.
She is currently the investigating officer (IO) in 100 cases (30 cases from last year) at the cyber police station.
Three cubicles to her left, inspector Ravi Sardesai, an old hand at handling cyber crimes, also bears the same cross — both are IOs of nearly 100 cases each, a number shocking even by the skewed yardstick by which the nearly 55,000-strong overburdened Mumbai Police operates.
Inspector-level officers have complained of excess work when they are IOs of over 15 cases at a time. Gadekar and Sardesai are probably the busiest officers in the Mumbai Police.
As per Section 78 of the Information Technology (IT) Act, only an officer of the rank of police inspector (PI) — earlier an assistant commissioner of police — or above can probe a case where sections of the IT Act have been invoked to prevent misuse of the Act. The BKC cyber police station currently has three
PI-level officers and above — Gadekar, Sardesai and senior PI Sudhir Mahadik.
This still was not a hindrance till earlier this year when the cyber police station would only accept applications in most cases and register FIRs in a few cases citing limited manpower. In 2013, there were 40 FIRs through the year and last year it was around 60, which worked out to a maximum of 15-20 cases for each of the three IOs.
This year, however, said an IPS officer, in order to portray the actual workload encountered by the cyber police so as to get approval for hiring more men, coupled with the criticism of them not registering FIRs, they decided to register FIRs in all complaints.
As a result, the tally of FIRs went up rapidly.
Additional Commissioner of Police (Crime) K M M Prasanna said the BKC cyber police station had registered 208 FIRs till November 15 this year, nearly five times the 2013 figure and more than three times the FIRs registered in 2014. “For the current year, the three officers have nearly 70 cases each, besides 30 each from last year…,” he said.
Sources said the bulk of the cases had Gadekar and Sardesai as IOs due to additional responsibilities on their senior Mahadik.
In order to tackle this problem, the Mumbai Police sent a recommendation earlier this year asking for amendment to Section 78 of the IT Act and allow officers of police sub-inspector (PSI) rank and above to probe cases. The cyber police station has three PSIs, eight APIs, which coupled with the three PIs, will take the count of officers to 14 instead of three if the proposal is accepted.
While the other officers at the police station do help the three PIs with major chunks of the investigation, when these 100 cases go for trial the IO concerned will have to depose in each case. “If every alternate day these officers will have to go to court for deposing, when will they be able to investigate these cases. Also, having so many cases will impact the quality of the probe,” said a senior officer.
The only hope for these officers is that the amendment to IT Act comes through or more PI-level officers are given to the cyber police station. “Since the IT Act is a central Act, the amendments will have to happen at the Central government level, which could be a long and winding process,” said the officer.
Tushar Mahajan, Under Secretary, Home, however, has communicated to the Mumbai Police recently that a committee had been set up to look into the amendments into the IT Act.