In less than a month since Arup Patnaik was eased out of the chair of police commissioner, the crime branch — where the former city police chief had placed his blue-eyed boys during his tenure — has seen most of its controversial officers shunted out.
Since taking over after Patnaik’s exit, Police Commissioner Dr Satyapal Singh has made some drastic changes in the police force, and these seem to speak of his disapproval of what many call Patnaik’s dictatorial style of functioning.
Patnaik had ignored all police hierarchy to place two of his most trusted assistant police commissioners, Vasant Dhoble and Rakesh Sharma, at the head of two important branches. Dhoble had been made the head of the Social Service Branch that is tasked with conducting raids on bars and prostitution dens, and Sharma the head of the Crime Branch Control, which conducts raids to bust adulteration rackets.
The former police commissioner had also given these officers extra powers and, instead of following protocol and reporting to their immediate bosses, the two coordinated directly with Patnaik.
While the appointments had upset many officers in the force, the raids made by Dhoble went on to attract several allegations of high-handedness from the public and earned him the nickname of ‘Bar Raider’.
After taking over charge from Patnaik, Singh did away with all the special powers given to these officers and transferred Dhoble to the Vakola division, as in-charge of Vakola and Vile Parle police stations, while moving Sharma to the local arms unit, considered a punishment posting.
“From time to time, the former commissioner (Patnaik) had reined in the various special squads formed under DCPs and additional commissioners of police, but there was no check on the squads flourishing right under his nose in spite of the fact that the officers heading these were hit by serious allegations of corruption and taking complaints against innocent Mumbaikars,” said a deputy commissioner of police, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Many police officers said they felt frustrated when during his tenure Patnaik had asked them to dismantle all the special squads but had kept intact the squads formed by him.
Officers said while warnings were also sent across that if any police officer from a special squad was found taking bribes, then the officer who had formed the team would be held accountable.
They said the same yardstick was not used with Patnaik, who had no answers when Sharma was embroiled in a controversy where he was accused of selling diesel worth Rs 20 lakh seized from a boat. An inquiry was initiated into the matter.
Several other changes made by Patnaik had given rise to unease in the force. Sources said Patnaik had even planned to dismantle the crime branch units and had already started working towards it.
All the specialised units such as Social Service Branch, Crime Branch Control and Economic Offences Wing were taken away from under the supervision of Joint Commissioner of Police Himanshu Roy.
Now, Singh has revoked all the orders passed by Patnaik and finally restored the special units under the crime branch chief. “There were several such decisions of the former CP that had upset senior officers,” said an assistant commissioner of police from the eastern suburbs. “Showing distrust in all the DCPs and senior police inspectors in the city, he had made one officer in-charge of all octroi-related cases and again sent a wrong message to the entire force. If you are portraying yourself as an upright officer, the cleanest one possible in the force, it still doesn’t mean that others are corrupt.”
> Vasant Dhoble had hit the headlines for threatening to beat employees of Amar Juice Centre in Vile Parle with a hockey stick.
> Dhoble had also spread terror among hawkers when he was posted in the Byculla police station and had allegedly beaten hawkers.
> In 2008, while he was with the crime branch Dhoble was accused of “negligence” when 12 files related to Dawood Ibrahim’s gang had gone missing.
> He was booked for the custodial death in 1983 of one Abdul Khan at the DN Nagar police station. It was alleged that Dhoble assaulted Khan during interrogation, leading to death. Dhoble was eventually cleared of the charges, though there is a departmental inquiry pending in the case.
> It has also been reported that Dhoble was once dismissed from service in connection with a Pune case, but reinstated after a few years.
> Dhoble is known in the police department for his authoritarian style of working.
> Rakesh Sharma was accused of selling diesel recovered from a ship after a raid conducted to bust an adulteration racket in the deep seas. Around 39,000 litres of diesel had been seized in Yellow Gate, of which around 30,000 litres valued at Rs 20 lakh had gone missing. An inquiry against Sharma was conducted, but he was cleared of the charges and reinstated.
> He was asked to go on long leave regarding another controversy and later came back on a transfer.
Unlike Patnaik, Singh has also encouraged several women constables to come forward and register cases of molestation against the August 11 rioters by sending letters to their respective departments.
Patnaik vs Singh
Social Service Branch (tasked with raiding bars and prostitution dens)
>> Arup Patnaik had gone against the settled system by keeping the Social Service Branch with him. Both the ACPs, Dhoble and Firoz Patel, used to report to him.
>> Singh has given the charge of SSB back to the crime branch. The SSB now reports to Joint Commissioner of Police Himanshu Roy.
Economic Offences Wing (handles all cases of cheating valued at more than Rs 50 lakh)
>> Patnaik used to look into economic offices cases directly.
>> Singh has reversed Patnaik’s move and the EOW now reports to Himanshu Roy.
>> Patnaik had given all octroi-related cases to the additional commissioner of police (central region).
>> Singh has given authority to all zonal DCPs to handle the cases.
Bandobast during demolitions
>> Patnaik had issued orders saying only joint commissioner of police (law and order) can provide police bandobast during demolitions.
>> Under Singh, all Zonal DCPs can provide bandobast for demolitions.
>> Patnaik had done away with all special squads except the two where his handpicked men, Vasant Dhoble and Rakesh Sharma, were functional.
>> Singh is open to the idea of having special squads if required.