Vijay Palande was a ‘trusted’ informant of the police. It was on his information that the crime branch was able to arrest gangster Santosh Shetty last year. Shetty’s aide Bhadresh Shah was also arrested with Palande’s help.
Allegations have been making the rounds that Palande, accused of murdering Arun Tikku and Karan Kakkad, has been able to get out of the police’s clutches because of the rapport he shares with them.
For instance, it is alleged that certain police officers went easy on Palande when he was arrested in the 1998 double murder case.
On April 10, when he was re-arrested after he escaped from police custody, Palande offered to get the police a ‘bigger catch’ if they allowed him to go.
Inspector Sanjay Shinde, Palande’s relative, and a constable were suspended in the case. It is now being investigated whether Shinde knew about Palande’s activities and shielded him. There have also been reports about Palande passing on information to senior officers.
This incident has raised a question: to what extent are the police ready to turn a blind eye to the misdeeds of ‘trusted’ informers?
“There are times when instead of the police using an informer, the latter uses the policeman. The officer may not even be aware of this,” said a police officer from the central suburbs.
“Apart from background checks, we normally get to know more about the informer from his locality and other policemen,” he added.
Sources said there had been incidents where informers would make money by getting someone implicated by giving the police wrong information.
Former Mumbai police commissioner Julio Ribeiro said most informers had a tendency to double-cross the police. “Most of them [informers] are ones who have committed minor crimes. But in Palande’s case, he had serious offences registered against him,” he said, adding that there have been glaring lapses in the investigation.
What makes things worse is when policemen are in cahoots with the informers.
An official from the crime branch said: “There have been instances where policemen have used informers for personal gains. The informer generally act as a mediator between the police and the other person involved. These instances are, however, an exception and not the norm.”
According to former Mumbai police commissioner MN Singh, the involvement of informers carries a huge risk. “An officer has to be extremely cautious and not have blind faith on them,” he said.
But there are ones who give crucial intelligence inputs. “For genuine informers, it is important to keep their identity under wraps. There is a constant threat to their lives,” said the officer.