Idol wing police lack infrastructure

The Idol Wing of Tamil Nadu Police, vested with the onerous task of apprehending, prosecuting smugglers and pedlars of invaluable ancient treasurers looted from temples, in the State are working in the face of logistic and infrastructural hardship.

With the Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Kumbakonam directed to hear idol smuggling cases, numbering over 550 registered across the State, the Idol Wing personnel are seeking solutions to their eminently avoidable work hazard.

In fact, the cases gathered steam only after Inspector General of Police A.G. Pon Manickavel took over the wing and expedited probe into the cases as well as prosecution of the offenders including a US national Subash Chandra Kapoor, since arrested and held in captivity. Finding that the no-nonsense officer was really spot on in his work, an idol smuggler himself reportedly tipped off the IG about the role of a DSP and a Senior Sub Inspector in spiriting away six idols seized from a village in Virudhunagar district leading to the arrest and suspension of the officers concerned.

In the meantime, Mr. Pon Manickavel was shunted out as IG Railways but the Madras High Court intervened and directed the State Government to retain him in the Idol Wing and also entrust him the job of hunting down idol smugglers. When the State Government went on appeal against the Madras High Court verdict, the Supreme Court threw out the appeal while affirming the High Court order, which also asked the State to allot adequate number of men and officers to carry out the prosecution works.

The Director General of Police sanctioned seven ADSPs, 10 DSPs, Inspectors, SIs and constables totalling 200 for the Idol Wing shortly thereafter but with no directive on their offices and other attendant facilities including vehicles for transporting the accused or technological support like video conferencing facilities to present the accused before the court from their places of captivity, the Idol Wing is struggling.

Regular hearings commenced in the Kumbakonam court on September 11 and in the first batch seven cases were transferred from a Srivilliputhur court and that included the one involving the two suspended police officials. That has intensified their troubles and more of them are on their way as several other cases are to be transferred to the Kumbakonam court shortly.

The State Government and the police headquarters should allot office space for the Idol Wing in Tiruchi, where many smugglers are held at the Central Prisons, or even in Thanjavur at the earliest so that transit could be easy. In any case an office with adequate facilities must be sanctioned in Kumbakonam to facilitate prosecution. Sources in the Wing confide that they face certain difficulties interrogating the accused in local police stations.

Though there is one more court in Chennai to hear the idol smuggling cases, most of the sensitive cases are being committed to the designated court in Kumbakonam.

The State Government must not drag its feet in facilitating the prosecuting the idol smugglers, the sources opined.