Mumbai: Cops come to blows in hospital over Rs 2 cr heist suspect

Jan 21, 2015, 06:32 IST | Saurabh Vaktania

At Santacruz hospital, policemen fought over who would get to interrogate the driver, an accused in the ATM cash van robbery; cops allegedly pushed each other in full view of everyone

Tariq Khan gives a new meaning to the term ‘most wanted’. After all, two groups of senior policemen came to blows to determine who would be the first ones to interrogate him.

Also read: Four detained in connection with cash van robbery in Vile Parle

Illustration/Amit Bandre
Illustration/Amit Bandre

Senior inspectors, an assistant commissioner of police (ACP) and two deputy commissioners of police (DCPs) were involved in the argument on Friday, January 16, over Khan, who is accused of being complicit in the planned heist of robbing R1.95 crore from a van carrying cash for ATM machines.

mid-day had reported on the heist, in which police have named Sadre Alam, the security guard accompanying the driver, Khan, and two others in the vehicle, as the brain behind the scheme. Alam asked the van, which was on its way from Lower Parel to the suburbs on Friday evening, to stop at Worli Naka for “some work”, and sent tea laced with sedatives in a flask.

He then coordinated with four other accused who were in a white Zen following the cash van. At 7.30 pm, near Milan Subway, when the two other occupants of the van not Khan felt drowsy, the Zen drove up to the vehicle. The four men looted R1.95 crore, and, with Alam, escaped in the same vehicle. The Crime Branch placed Khan and two others under arrest on Sunday, but had to wrestle for Khan’s custody with their own rank.

'Custody' battle
On the same night, the two occupants and Khan were admitted to V N Desai Hospital in Santacruz (East) after they complained of drowsiness. Meanwhile, Unit IX of Crime Branch got a tip-off about Khan’s involvement in the robbery. The local Vile Parle police, during their primary questioning of Khan, had doubted his innocence since he had told them he had drunk the tea, but hadn’t fallen unconscious.

At the same time, a team from Unit IX, Unit VIII who have jurisdiction of the area and the Anti-Robbery Cell of Mumbai Police reached the hospital to take custody of Khan, who didn’t even have to be treated by the doctors since there was nothing wrong with him. Even the Vile Parle police were pushing hard to take him in. In this situation, the Crime Branch decided to take the accused without even completing the discharge formalities.

Senior inspectors and their team were taking Khan away when ACP Z M Gharal of Vile Parle division and some police inspectors blocked the way with arms outstretched wall-to-wall, telling them they couldn’t take Khan. A police official said, “A heated argument began between Crime Branch and the Vile Parle police. Everyone in the hospital was watching as cops clashed with each other.”

An eyewitness to the scuffle recalled, “In some time, DCP (Detection) Mohan Dahikar and Crime Branch cops were just going away with the accused. But ACP Gharal and senior officials from Vile Parle did not allow them to do so. The fight escalated when DCP (Zone VIII) Pravin Mishra arrived at the spot.

Both the DCPs, an ACP and senior inspectors fought over Khan, while their subordinates watched them.” At one point, Khan was caught in the middle as the two groups tried to pull him towards them. A police officer from Vile Parle police station alleged, “The Crime Branch officials pushed our staff. Cops were fighting among themselves for accused’s custody. It is a black mark on Mumbai Police.

It was very strange, two DCPs and several inspectors fighting over one accused.” Such was the tension that day that news reached police officers of Indian Police Services (IPS) cadre, who decided that Khan would be given over to the Crime Branch. DCP Dahikar, DCP Mishra and ACP Gharal refused to comment on the scuffle.

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