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Force breach over Garden Reach
Probe changes hands, snaps momentum

The decision to take away the Garden Reach probe from Calcutta police’s detective department and give it to an agency that probes crime in the “rest of the state” has put the force in a bind and snapped the momentum.

The detective department of Calcutta police was set up in 1868 to investigate crime in the city. The CID came into being 38 years later to deal with crime in the rest of the state.

Lalbazar veterans said the chief minister’s decision to break with convention — this is the first known instance of a murder probe being taken away from the city police — was fraught with danger and bad for its morale. Worse, an investigation that was going full steam ahead could stutter, they added.

CID officers spent their first day in the case visiting the spot where sub-inspector Tapas Chowdhury was fatally shot and studying files. They did make three arrests in Burdwan but officers in Lalbazar said the momentum of the original probe had been lost.

“Just when the investigation was peaking with the big fish on the radar, we have given the accused a breather. It looks like the CID will take time to get a grasp of the case,” a senior officer said.

A CID team led by the special inspector-general of police, Vineet Goyal, went to Harimohan Ghose College on Friday and surveyed the area before going into a huddle at Garden Reach police station.

“You could tell the change in the pace of activity in and around the police station compared to a day earlier,” the officer said.

According to the officer, it would have been “prudent” to continue with the city police probe. “Lalbazar was conducting a two-pronged operation with the homicide and anti-rowdy squads on one hand and the local police station on the other. The CID will have to start from scratch.”

The CID has for long been a force hamstrung by lack of manpower and overload, sources said.

Many also see the CID as Mamata Banerjee’s favourite weapon against CPM rivals. The CID is handling most cases against Left leaders in the districts, including the Benachapra incident in which skeletons were unearthed near a CPM leader’s house.

The CID team entrusted with the Garden Reach investigation has informally asked the city police to continue with the search for all those behind the incident.

Apnara agey pele dhore rakhben, amader janiye deben (if you get hold of the accused first, nab him for us and then do inform us),” one of the senior CID officers was heard telling his city counterparts.

Usually, after a case is shifted out of a police station, its only involvement is to either provide intelligence or assist the new investigative agency in raids. So what the CID has informally done in the Garden Reach case is an exception.

A section of the city police force is still seething over the shift. “We fear they (the CID) might not be as attached to the case as we were. We lost one of our brothers. We had put our heart and soul into the case,” an officer said.

A retired IPS officer called the government’s decision to call the CID an unwarranted slight on the detective department.

“The detective department of Calcutta police has always been known for the competence of its officers. It has an illustrious past and a very high rate of success in solving cases. I am afraid I cannot say the same for the state agency (CID),” he said.

The retired officer, who had a stint with the detective department during his tenure in Lalbazar, recalled how its efficiency had inspired a slogan. “There is a famous saying about the DD. It goes: all roads (in DD) lead to the prison.”

Calcutta police’s “failure to nab all the people mentioned in the FIR” had been officially cited as the reason behind the transfer of commissioner R.K. Pachnanda and the decision to hand the case to the CID.

The CID, whose probe will largely depend on the FIR drawn up by the city police and the evidence collected by them, has the freedom to alter charges and include or exclude names from the FIR while submitting the chargesheet.

Senior police officers said the traditional rivalry between the CID and the detective department might also affect the probe.