Tamil Nadu

HC should continue monitoring idol theft cases: ex-Home Secy.

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Court can seek periodic reports: Naresh Gupta

The exit of A.G. Pon Manickavel, former Idol Wing CID special officer and Inspector General of Police, from cases pertaining to idol theft has prompted former Home Secretary Naresh Gupta to suggest that the High Court continue monitoring the investigation of such cases.

Mr. Gupta, who was Home Secretary during 2001-2002, said, “The court can seek reports once in two or three months. In case Mr. Manickavel wishes to provide information, he can do so, and the team of police officers, who will be going into the cases, can make a mention of the information provided by the former IG.”

In the light of the Supreme Court’s order on December 2 asking Mr. Manickavel to hand over the entire record of investigation and other documents to the head of the Wing [Additional Director General of Police Abhay Kumar Singh], the State government, on December 3, named T.S. Anbu, as the IG of the Idol Wing-CID.

When asked if his idea would not encroach into the domain of the executive, he said: “Ordinarily, yes. But there have been instances of the Supreme Court or the High Courts monitoring certain probes.” Besides, whatever information Mr. Manickavel may provide should be kept confidential. Likewise, reports that the police would have to submit to the High Court should be in a sealed cover, he added.

Emphasising that the High Court should continue to follow up with the cases, Mr. Manickavel mooted a few more suggestions on carrying forward the work that he has done.

The investigation of the cases can be carried out by the officers, at least from the level of Deputy Superintendent of Police to the ADGP. This is required as investigating officers have to interact with the Union Ministries of Home Affairs and External Affairs. Those who do not sign on charge sheets should not be allowed to go overseas in connection with the cases. The authorities should not transfer IOs till the cases are disposed. Apart from the ongoing 274 cases, the Idol Wing should be entrusted with 116 similar cases which are being handled by police stations in different parts of the State. In addition, it should take over 31 more cases wherein documents are reportedly missing, Mr Manickavel added.

However, former Director General of Police, R. Nataraj, asserted that the police department is capable of handling the cases on its own and there is no need for monitoring of its work by judiciary.

Emphasising that the Idol Wing, ever since its creation in October 1983 out of the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CID), has a chequered past, Mr. Nataraj, who is the ruling AIADMK legislator from Mylapore, recalled how the legendary police officer F.V. Arul, who headed the Police Department in the mid-1970s, had laid the foundation for investigation in theft of artefacts which he formalised after heading CBI in the late 1960s. Over the years, several precious idols were retrieved from museums in foreign countries and brought back to the State, thanks to efforts of “excellent band of investigating officers” in the ranks of DSPs, inspectors and sub-inspectors.

A number of “stalwarts” had worked in the wing and they included K.K. Rajasekharan Nair, V. Vaikunth and R. Rajagopal, he said. “The structure of the Tamil Nadu police is excellent. There are very many capable officers, who know how to run the show.”

A senior government official said the new IG and the ADGP will pursue the cases in future.

An official in the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department was not against the idea of the court-monitored probe of the cases on some occasions. But, the entire police department’s job cannot be assumed. In the last few years, a “lot of sensation” had been generated over the cases of idol theft. In the process, the HR&CE department “got painted black,” the official observed.

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Printable version | Dec 13, 2019 6:15:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/hc-should-continue-monitoring-idol-theft-cases-ex-home-secy/article30153877.ece

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