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There was a time when a “rowdy squad” was formed as a separate force within Tamil Nadu police and was directly supervised by district SPs and commissioners. Not only in rowdy-related cases, this force helped to solve heinous crimes such as murders and arrest the accused in those cases.

A similar force was functioning in Tirunelveli. A sub-inspector and a few constables were in this team and a dedicated police vehicle was given to them. In the year 2000, the concerned sub-inspector of this team approached the city intelligence section of the police and said he had heard about a stolen idol at a house and that he will investigate with their permission. He further said the house was in Eral and other details such as to which temple the stolen idol belonged would be known only after investigation. The concerned intelligence inspector said if the sub-inspector came with good information he will inform city commissioner, too.

A week later, the sub-inspector reported that they had secured the stolen idol and they had brought a few suspects for interrogation. He said the idol was a Nataraja.

The inspector informed the city police commissioner who ordered that an FIR be filed immediately and the accused be arrested soon and sent for remand. He told the sub-inspector to send the photo of the idol and a copy of the investigation report. A few days later, stories appeared in newspapers with a photo of the idol and quotes from the commissioner.
Several months passed. The city commissioner called me for a meeting. At the time, I was Tirunelveli district superintendent of police holding additional charge as city police deputy commissioner. The commissioner handed over a petition that he had received.

The petitioner had said that a few policemen had searched his house and claimed to have recovered a stolen idol. They then lodged him in jail. He said he had done no wrong and justice should be done. The commissioner asked me to inquire into the matter.

I went to the house of this person without prior intimation to investigate. The man said he had a small workshop at his house. And one day, some plainclothed policemen came to his house, searched his house, pointed at a Nataraja idol and asked where it came from. He said he did not deal with stolen idols and did not know where the idol came from or how it came there. The policemen didn’t accept his explanation and took him and a few others in a jeep. Later, some were let go but he was lodged in jail.

I called the driver of the vehicle attached to the rowdy squad and obtained from the trip sheet details relating to where the vehicle was taken around the time the raid was conducted. I found that the vehicle had been taken to the state-run handicrafts showroom in the city. I then found that the sub-inspector of the rowdy squad had gone there to purchase an idol. It was established that the same idol was recovered from the petitioner’s house.

I also found that those who had been detained during the raid and were released later had paid a huge sum of money as bribe. And the petitioner who had not paid any bribe was put in jail.

Much power is vested with the police. Those who misuse those powers should not be excused.

The commissioner suspended the concerned policemen who had misused their powers and ordered departmental action. Many expected that the sub-inspector would be removed from service after the inquiry was completed. But this did not happen. The commissioner was transferred to another posting. The new commissioner took pity on the sub-inspector and did not remove him from service.

But the sub-inspector had not learned his lesson, apparently. While investigating a case of theft at a cell phone shop, he took two high-end mobile phones from the shop, saying high officials in the police wanted them. When the new commissioner came to know this, he transferred the sub-inspector to another district and wrote a detailed note in his service record. He ensured that the sub-inspector would never be promoted and would have to retire as sub-inspector.

Much power is vested with the police. Those who misuse those powers should not be excused. Strict action should be taken since any mercy shown to them will only lead to harm than good.

(The author is a retired police officer who held several responsibilities in his career including Inspector General (Intelligence). This article has been published with permission from

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