Is the SIT serving its purpose?

(Monday Musing)

[Amar Sangno]

They say that to provide impartial and efficient police service, safeguarding the interests of the people and making the police force a professionally organized service that is accountable to the law is a constitutional obligation. Effective and efficient investigation is the only mantra for any security organization to gain the people’s faith.
However, the special investigation team (SIT) of the Arunachal Pradesh Police is a different story altogether. Once considered a specialized unit of investigation in the police headquarters, it has lately been losing its image, as it has been failing to deliver results on time – sometimes failing altogether.
The team is plagued with slow investigation, with zero results, along with lack of professionalism and a disorganized manner of operating. It is learnt that more than 40 cases are currently at the SIT’s disposal. These include more than 10 cases related to the violence that occurred over the permanent residency certificate (PRC) issue, the Tezu lynching case, the mysterious death of former Doimukh MLA Ngurang Pinch, the murder of Class 12 student Toko Yame in Tawang, and the Ojing Taying murder case. It is, sadly, a matter of fact that no headway has been made in most of the cases registered with the SIT.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) recently returned three cases – the Ngurang Pinch death case, the Toko Yame murder case, and the Ojing Taying murder case – which had all been recommended to the CBI by the state government for investigation.
“We had a terrible experience with the SIT. So many SITs have been constituted since 2017; they are incompetent,” said Ngurang Reena, daughter of Pinch, who has been fighting for justice for her deceased father.
“It’s almost two years, and zero result. We are waiting to hear something from them. A government institution must work diligently. I hope they are able to revive our faith and trust,” said Reena.
There is a popular view that the SIT is evidently becoming an ‘imaginary investigation department’ that belies aggrieved and distressed victims’ expectations. As the maxim goes, justice delayed is justice denied. Ironically, the government and the police authority still assign high-profile cases to the SIT to investigate.
People are beginning to describe the SIT as a cell where high-profile cases are dumped so that they die a slow and natural death. “Once a case is taken over by the SIT, the result is never going to come out,” said an aggrieved parent.
The formation of the SIT itself is overshadowed by the crime branch, with the notification issued by the home department in December 1999. It is supposed to be a special unit for investigation of cyber crimes, organized crimes, homicide cases, economic offences, and any other category of offence as notified by the state government that requires specialized investigative skills.
Normally, officers should be posted to the SIT on the basis of their aptitude, professional competence, and integrity. Their professional skills should be upgraded from time to time through specialized training in investigative techniques, particularly in the application of scientific aids to investigation, and in forensic science techniques.
However, the officers posted to the SIT are overburdened. Additional charges, random transfers in the middle of investigations into sensitive cases, and excessive centralization of the procedures during registration of FIRs are attributed as factors contributing to the inefficient and sluggish manner of the SIT’s functioning, and its inability to deliver results.
The officers posted to the SIT hardly complete a minimum tenure of two years. Therefore it is considered a ‘punishment posting’. Currently, the SIT is manned by the SP, three DSPs and seven inspectors, who are directly controlled by the director general of police. Does it exist just for the sake of existing?
An independent SIT, which is handled by an officer-in-charge and carries out investigations in a time-bound manner, is the only way to ensure its efficiency and effectiveness. The onus is on the new Home Minister, Bamang Felix, to make the SIT an effective and efficient investigation cell with an independent office to take up and investigate cases in a time-bound manner.