Despite being convicted of double murder, Vijay Palande, 41, managed to strut his way through gruesome killings for money, property and fancy cars, raising questions about the police’s ability to keep hardened criminals from repeating their crimes.
Palande, a convict in the 1998 double murder case of Air India engineer Anup Das and his father Swaraj Ranjan was sentenced to life imprisonment later that year. However, in 2003, he jumped parole, and was re-arrested in 2006. In 2009, he was released on bail after his lawyer argued that he had served nine years in prison, claim which the DN Nagar police station allegedly did not contest despite being aware of the details of the case.
Out on bail, Palande first murdered aspiring producer Karan Kakkad earlier this year and threw his body down the Kumbharli valley. He then masterminded the plot to kill Delhi-based businessman Arunkumar Tikku for his Rs50 crore property, following which he was arrested. All the victims are residents of Andheri (West). Palande’s history of crime has brought into focus the Mumbai police’s surveillance system to keep criminals convicted for grave offences under the law’s scanner. “There is a loophole somewhere in the prevalent system. Palande, I suspect, must have bribed his way through it since he has been operating so openly, and was frequenting familiar destinations throughout. It is not possible to change one’s identity to that extent,” opined YP Singh, former IPS officer and now a lawyer.
The Mumbai police do have a surveillance system to keep an eye on criminals like Palande, but experts say it needs to be strengthened. “There is a need to employ methods like unique identification (UID), which if expedited for hardened criminals, will create a record of their fingerprints and retina scans. The biometric data of each criminal should be maintained in a computerised format,” said Singh.
Besides, say experts, methods like cell phone, email and IP address tracking can act as rich sources. “After a criminal is out on parole, bail or furlough, the police should issue alerts to local police stations so that he is kept under constant surveillance. Palande was an accused in a double murder case. It is astonishing that he could indulge in similar crimes again,” said Singh.
Pratap Dighavkar, deputy commissioner of police (zone 9), implemented a scheme in July last year in which 92 gangsters charged under MCOCA were brought under the police’s scanner. Besides, 2,341 other persons with criminal records have been kept under constant surveillance. Zone 9 covers eight police stations between Bandra (West) and Oshiwara.
However, Palande, who was arrested in connection with the Kakkad and Tikku cases that occurred in zone 9, escaped this surveillance net with ease. “Palande was not kept under surveillance because the scheme covers criminals who have been convicted in the past seven years. He is an accused in a 14-year-old double murder case,” justified Dighavkar.
When asked why the database was not expanded to include older convicts, Dighavkar said the demarcation was set at seven years owing to staff crunch. However, Singh, contradicting Dighavkar, said, “I do not think that staff crunch is a problem. The network, set up and capacity is in place. All the policemen have to do is widen their intelligence base and collect additional information.”