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Return of top guns

Two of Mumbai’s top encounter specialists who dealt a body blow to the underworld, but then faced corruption charges, have now donned the khaki again, Debasish Panigrahi reports.

india Updated: May 09, 2009 01:10 IST
Debasish Panigrahi

On Thursday evening, residents of a building in Andheri (east) distributed sweets and burst crackers. Traffic in the lanes around the building came to a standstill for more than an hour. Why?

Mumbai Police encounter specialist Pradip Sharma (46) has come home victorious. The Maharashtra Administrative Tribunal (MAT) had directed his reinstatement eight months after he was dismissed for allegedly having links to the underworld.

Twenty kilometers away in Matunga, two children eagerly waited for their father to wear his khaki uniform once again, with the IPS badge pinned on his shoulder, and to sit in a white government car with its amber beacon. Pradip Sawant (47), former deputy commissioner of police of the elite crime branch, was reinstated last month after he was let off in the multi-crore Telgi stamp paper scam case. He is now awaiting his next assignment.

Although the decks have been cleared for the return of the two top guns, both may have to wait for the rule of the code of conduct to end with the completion of the election process before being given fresh assignments.

“They did a good job in the past. I am sure they have learnt a lesson and use this experience in future,” observed Dr Satyapal Singh, police commissioner of Pune, who used to head the crime branch during Sharma and Sawant’s heydays.
The two were credited with making a huge dent in the underworld in the late 1990s and in early 2000. Sharma alone was responsible for gunning down over 110 gangsters and three Lashkar-e-Tayyeba operatives.

Sharma said: “It took me 25 years to create my network. Even in the last eight months I was put under dismissal, I stayed in touch with them personally, not over the telephone. Now, they can be put to use once again.” Sawant, when contacted, refused to comment.

Sharma’s one-time teammate Aslam Momin (39) — instrumental in the arrest of Dawood Ibrahim’s brother Iqbal Kaskar — will have to wait awhile as the state government has moved the high court against the MAT’s order last year quashing his dismissal for having alleged links with the underworld.