Bhubaneswar: The state crime branch (CB) has been overloaded with cases, but is the premier investigating agency of the state police in a position to deliver the goods? At least the report card of the CB over recent years does not inspire confidence.
According to Odisha Police Manual Rules (PMR), the CB can assume complete control over investigations of any case from the district police. The cases should be of considerable importance and have likely involvement of organized gangs. Various courts can also refer cases to the CB if they find the probe by the local police inadequate.
Recently, DGP Abhay directed the CB to take charge of investigation into the mysterious death of social activist Aditya Das after the Government Railway Police failed to crack the case.
However, more than half the investigations taken up by the Crime Branch are still pending.
An RTI query revealed there are 345 sensitive cases referred to the crime branch between 2007 and 2019 out of which 309 cases (90 per cent) came from police stations. The state home department also handed over 36 high profile cases to the CB like the Pipli and Kunduli gang rape cases during this period.
The CB sleuths managed to submit charge-sheets in 168 cases while investigations have been pending in 177 cases (51 per cent). Meanwhile, the CB took up the investigation of 75 cases (CID-3, Economic Offences Wing-17, Special Task Force-21 and Cyber Cell- 34) from June 2019 to July 2020.
The CB submitted charge-sheets in 15 cases including 12 under the NDPS Act in the above period.
Additional Director General of Police (Crime Branch) Saumendra Priyadarshi said, “The crime branch primarily takes up complicated and sensitive cases and its sleuths probe every possible angle in a case. So, it is not possible to solve the cases quickly unlike in the cases investigated by the district police. As per rules, the average period for submission of charge-sheets is normally three years for the cases taken up by the crime branch.”
A spike in cyber crime in recent years has added to the burden of the crime branch. Source in the police claimed that a number of cyber crimes have national and international links. Thus investigation into these cases takes lots of time.
GC Nanda, former DG of Odisha Police, said, “Odisha Police should focus on improving the human resources at its premier investigating agency. The crime branch should adopt a model being practiced by the CBI where an IO can probe maximum three cases in a year. This will enhance the quality of investigation and achieve good conviction rate too.”
The miserable record of conviction rate is a well-known fact too. Failure of the sleuths to prove involvement of the accused in cases also makes situation all the more vulnerable. The Pipli gang rape is a crying example of the sloppy probe by the probe agency. The prime accused and his brother involved in the gang rape in 2011 were acquitted by a local court in 2018. The CB later challenged the lower court verdict in HC after a public outcry over this.
Gyan Ranjan Mohapatra, OP