Fate of several high-profile cases hang in balance as Special Investigation Teams have failed to crack them
PANJIM: As Goa grabs the attention for all the wrong reasons, prompting an immediate intervention of the State government, a trend of constituting Special Investigation Teams (SITs) to probe high-profile criminal cases has emerged in the last few years.
While some white collar crimes involving politicians and top bureaucrats like the Louis Berger case were entrusted to Crime Branch (CB), offences like the multi-crore mining scam, drug nexus, matka, alleged sexual assault of a journalist by Tehelka’s then editor Tarun Tejpal and 2009 Margao blast cases saw the formation of SITs to probe them.
Whether or not the SITs probe yields results is a matter of debate as the history of Goa Police shows that some of these cases have either been transferred to central agencies or are pending investigation or under trial.
When Herald contacted a senior IPS officer his only comment was, “We are not forming SITs. It is either government or directions of the courts.”
A fresh debate could be triggered on the constitution of a SIT and the type of case it takes over. Advocate Galileo Teles, representing two policemen in the drug nexus, has sought answers to these queries. “Who determines when a particular case is referred to a SIT? And what is the basis or criteria based on which such recommendation is made? If there are no terms of reference and in the absence of guidelines, the referral for investigation would certainly be arbitrary,” he said.
The defense counsel also slammed the composition of the SIT arguing that if the officers appointed are part of the Goa Police Department, expecting a fair investigation in cases where police officers are themselves involved/or charged with serious offences, is unsure.
Activist Andrea Pereira has a different view. According to her SIT is the need of the hour. “SIT at times gives a clear picture of the cases it is investigating. Moreover, the organisations are kept on their toes,” she said, but raised concerns over the abrupt transfers of officers from SIT. She also apprehended that there is no justice done in some cases.
A setback for the Goa Police’s SIT was when the six members of the Sanathan Sanstha were acquitted in the 2009 Diwali-eve blast case. It is, however, to be noted that the case was taken over by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in the same year.
In the recent past, as Goa increasingly saw high-profile criminal cases, there have been demands for a probe by a SIT or any central agency. The infamous police-politician-drug cartel nexus, exposed in 2010 was handed over to Crime Branch’s SIT after a police sub inspector was caught allegedly selling drugs to two foreign nationals. The matter was then taken over by CBI that filed two charge sheets against half a dozen policemen for planting drugs on Israeli national David Driham alias Dudu. As the issue continued to haunt the State government, Goa Assembly’s House Committee led by former MLA Francisco (Mickky) Pacheco recommended that a FIR be filed against present MLA Ravi Naik, his son Roy and others. It was five years later that the ruling coalition constituted a fresh SIT – in January this year – to investigate the observations.
Yet another SIT to investigate the nexus between police-politician and the matka operators in the State was constituted less than a year ago following directions from the High Court of Bombay at Goa. A PIL filed by activist Kashinath Shetye led to a fresh turn of events into the otherwise neglected offence. In the latest development, SP Chandan Chaudhary will soon be drafted into the team after the North District Police busted a major gambling den in Morjim just recently.
Shetye had actually sought for a CBI probe, however, he still hopes that the SIT would crack the menace if they are determined to. “We want to give SP Chaudhary a chance to investigate the matka racket. My prayer before the High Court for a CBI probe is already there but if the SIT thinks they can stop matka within one day, the illegality will stop. Last time matka gambling saw a lull for nearly one month after a series of crackdowns at various places,” he said, adding that the high court is monitoring the probe involving many high profile people.
The mega investigation into the mining scam has caught more attention than any case of the SIT. After forming the SIT August 2013 to investigate into 16 separate cases of mining related offences yet again involving politicians, bureaucrats and mining traders among others, the SIT is left to charge sheet just one case. Considering the magnitude of the illegality into one of the biggest cases – of 187-odd mining leases – is under the scanner, the Kartik Kashyap-led team will file a supplementary charge sheet shortly.