Kerala cops lack teeth to take on terror groups

via VR Jayaraj | Kochi - Daily Pioneer published on July 26, 2009

Lack of a permanent and centralized investigation agency within the police force, difficulties in getting money for expenses related to probes and loopholes in the existing rules and laws are impediments for the Kerala Police in handling terror-related cases, officials complain. They point out that the delay in arresting LeT operative Muhammad Abdul Halim, prime accused in the case of twin blasts at Kozhikode in 2006, was due to these shortcomings, they claim.

Lack of sufficient funds for operation is, perhaps, the biggest hurdle the State police experience in the investigations into terror cases, which inevitably have connections with other states, especially Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra Gujarat and Jammur and Kashmir. The maximum money a police official going outside the State for investigations in such cases would get from the Government is Rs 500, which “in today’s scale buys almost nothing”.

There are no substantial contingency allowances, an inevitable factor as far as terror investigators and sleuths are concerned, and for the same reason gathering intelligence from the grassroots in nearly impossible. Even when the investigators want to interrogate a suspect or accused in a secure place, sometime for days, the official in charge would be forced to spend money from his pockets for buying food for the subject and for meeting other related expenses.

The non-availability of sufficient unmarked vehicles and the lack of funds for hiring inconspicuous vehicles, especially outside the State, have been seriously affecting the investigations in terror cases, officials say. This could also cause hazardous delays in operations, which would in the end affect the total result, they point out. Such constraints are not there for the personnel of other States, they say.

“Regular police vehicles cannot be used for such travels due to the risk of being identified and therefore the officer will have to hire a vehicle. In most such cases, the officer will have to run from pillar to post the reimbursement of the money he would have spent on fuel and rent. In the end, what happens is that he would not get the money to meet the actual cost. Who would want to investigate cases by spending money from his pockets?” asked a senior police official in Kochi.

This official described the case of Halim as an example of how loophole in laws could cause impediments in the probes into terror cases. He said that Halim, who was said to have initiated the terror process for the Bangalore blasts, had been arrested at least twice in the past but the loopholes in the laws had come to his aid. He protested the reports that described such incidents as examples of police inefficiency.

When Halim had fallen into the police net in a vehicle theft case, five applications had been filed in two courts for getting him in custody for detailed interrogation. But what the court did was to consider the plea of Halim’s counsel that this should not be allowed due to his ill health. The court finally allowed had allowed his interrogation in the sub-jail, which was not suitable for such steps, but Halim escaped this also by pretending restlessness, an official said.

He said that a similar loophole in the system had helped Halim slip through the police fingers when he fell into the hands of Mumbai Police. The court had then ruled that arrested of a person on bail could not be allowed. When a petition seeking cancellation of the bail was filed in the court, it said this would be considered after a week. The Mumbai Police, seeing no reason to keep him in custody, was forced to release Halim, the official claimed.

However, the biggest hurdle the police face in the investigation of terror cases is the lack of a centralized and permanent agency. Several of the terror-accused have fallen into the police net in many cases but these cases were being handled by different police stations. Due to this, there would be no way to know about such arrested in time and to share information. A centralized agency, which would have accesses and coordination with the entire police force is necessary to avoid such problems, officials say.

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