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Special Cell’s waning aura gets another dent

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By Sidharth Mishra

Last week the Special Cell of Delhi Police was in the news after a very longtime. In the bygone days when the CBI and the ED did not grab the newspaper headlines, it was the Special cell of Delhi Police which seized the public attention. Albeit for very different reasons.

The Delhi High Court last week reduced the death sentence given to the main accused in the Batla House encounter case to lifeterm. The Batla House encounter was a significant operation conducted by the Special Cell in September 2008 around the Jamia Nagar area of South East Delhi.

The operation was aimed at capturing Yasin Bhatkal, the head of Indian Mujahideen. The operation led to the death of some suspects and the apprehension of others, revealing crucial information about terror networks. However, the Special Cell also lost a very decorated officer inspector Mohan Chand Sharma to the bullets of the terrorists.

Formed in the  1980s, the Special Cell of Delhi Police was initally tasked to counter the activities of Punjab militants. Though its primary mission was to gather intelligence and prevent terror incidents, with the waning of Punjab militancy and rise of Pakistan-sponsored terroprism, Special cell became a major component in countering terrorist activities.

The best time for Special Cell was from the turn of the century to 2008, the year it lost two of its star officers – Mohan Chand Sharma, preceded by Rajbir Singh. Though the two died under very different circumstances. The two were mentored by a very mild mannered officer, Ashok Chand headed the cell then as its Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP). 

Chand’s team had able ace investigators like Rajbir Singh, Mohan Chand Sharma and Lalit Mohan Negi, which cracked a series of high-profile cases. The milestone investigation was in the Parliament attack case, which was solved within 72 hours. Parliament was attacked by Pakistan-sponsored terroprists on December 13, 2001. The Special Cell, 72 hours later, on December 15, apprehended Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorist Afzal Guru from Jammu & Kashmir. Guru was sentenced to death and later hanged.

While in the most cases, the state police is dependent upon the central agencies for the inputs, in the case of the Delhi Police it was the other way round. The master investigators of Special Cell had developed such network that organisations like the CBI would hinge on to it for not just the intelligence inputs but also operational support.

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Neeraj Kumar in his book ‘Dia D for Don’, mentions about a kidnapping case planned in Abu Dhabi and executed in Delhi. Kumar had a very long and illustrious tenure in the CBI and often depended upon his Delhi Police network for solving the cases.

Kumar mentions in the book, “I was still mulling over the details given by the relatives of Siddhique (victim in the kidnapping case) and the queer dilemma I was in, when by a happy coincidence, Rajbir Singh, an Assistant Commissioner of the Delhi Police, Special Cell walked into my office. Earlier too, I had associated him and his team in several operations undertaken by me in the CBI and we had always come out trumps.” About Rajbir Singh, Kumar goes onto mention, “From technical support to armed back up, he was capable of providing invaluable partnership in a case such as this. He had a crack-team under him comprising of trusted and tried go-getters which he offered to place at my disposal, including his own services and expertise.”


Unfortunately, Special Cell today is more part of the folklore than any visible action. The truth of Rajbir’s murder never came out. The accused in Mohan Chand Sharma’s slaying has escaped gallows, ostensibly because the prosecution presented a ‘weak’ case. How unfortunate!



(First Published in The Morning Standard)


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