Himanshu Roy: Maharashtra lost a career police officer who always believed in meticulous sleuthing

Himanshu Roy, a crack investigator of the Maharashtra Police, allegedly shot himself with his own revolver around 12:40 pm on Friday at his official residence in Malabar Hills. Regarded as an ace sleuth by those who knew him, Roy had proved a great asset to Mumbai’s crime branch tackling probes into economic offences and other major crimes.

The police will probe the unnatural death, though it is believed to be a suicide. One of the theories around Roy’s death is that he opted for suicide due to "a feeling of helplessness from the advanced stage of his cancer". This was supported by a press statement from the Mumbai Police, which also said that the suicide note absolved others of any blame.

File image of Senior IPS officer Himanshu Roy. PTI

File image of Senior IPS officer Himanshu Roy. PTI

Very few details have been released to the public about his disease. Around three years ago, Roy found a growth on his left shin and had it surgically removed. A biopsy later determined that the lump was malignant and that cancer had spread to his bones. It was a tragedy for a man who had chosen physical fitness as a lifestyle — a fact attested by other police officers and journalists alike.

For a year, Roy continued to work while beginning treatment. Later, he decided to pursue treatment in the United States and went on a long leave. Around three months ago, former Mumbai commissioner, Arup Patnaik, who runs a cancer support organisation, had put him in touch with a doctor in Hinduja hospital. The doctor found that cancer had affected his brain and suggested a surgery.

Sources said that Roy felt demoralised by the recommendation for a surgery on the brain and turned toward meditation. (Calls to his family members went unanswered and this could not be corroborated with them). Many believe that the depression grew worse and that is why Roy took his life. As per Mumbai Police, Roy used a privately-licensed revolver to end his life. Sources in Mumbai Police say that he put the nozzle of the handgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. His wife, Bhavna, rushed him to a hospital, where he was declared "brought dead".

Before choosing policing as his career, Roy initially thought of medical practice since his father was a dermatologist, with houses in Colaba and Malad. He chose civil service and on his first attempt, bumped into Bhavna, who was also appearing for the exam. Bhavna’s brother is the best-selling author, Amish Tripathi.

Bhavna was posted as an IAS officer in Tamil Nadu cadre and Roy as a Maharashtra cadre IPS officer in 1988. She quit services when they married, shortly after their recruitment.

His "commanding personality" as a policeman drew him to the notice of superiors and then the police commissioner entrusted him as his deputy for Zone-1 (South Mumbai). It was a sensitive posting since it mixed a demand for law and order to two different kinds of needs. There was the financial district and the posh areas of the city as well as some areas where the underworld still flourished. It was the early 2000s and Dawood Ibrahim and other gangsters still managed to run major crime syndicates in the city.

It was then that Roy also made friends with some of the leading industrialists in the city who saw him as a positive influence on the law and order situation. They felt he could keep the gangsters and extortionists at bay.

"Roy has had an outstanding career and held important assignments and went on to become the joint commissioner of police (crime branch), where he proved his mettle. It shows that he was rated quite highly by the organisation. He was already an ADG of police and was a likely candidate for the top job," says former Mumbai Police commissioner MN Singh. "Now, he is unfairly gone just when he was to shift to a higher gear. It is a great loss to the service because he still had quite a few good years to go."

Author Manish Pachouly, and a former crime reporter, says that Roy had earned his laurels by cracking some of the high-profile cases such as the sensational murder of crime reporter Jyotirmoy Dey, IPL spot fixing and the Laila Khan  murder case as a joint commissioner of police, Mumbai crime branch.

"All crime reporters thought him to be a brilliant investigator and very articulate. It was easy to build news reports around this combination," says Pachouly.

The Laila Khan investigation had turned up several leads, many of them red herrings, till Roy’s team narrowed down on an alleged terrorist. Parvez Tak, said to be a LeT terrorist had purportedly confessed to killing his stepdaughter Bollywood starlet Laila Khan and several other members of the family. Tak was married to Khan’s mother and supposedly angered that they planned to migrate to Dubai without him.

Though Tak had withdrawn the confession, Roy did not give up till they procured his remand from Jammu and Kashmir. Once he brought him back, Tak ‘confessed’ but Roy did not base his probe merely on the confession. Tak was made to accompany the team to where the corpses were buried and narrate the sequence of events while their bodies were exhumed. The police team had built a case based on forensic evidence and to support the narrative that they built, based on Tak’s alleged confession. In many cases, one will find that investigators give up the chase once they extract a concession and skeletal details.

A colleague of Roy said that the IPL spot-fixing had resulted in a lot of pressure on Roy. While investigating the spot-fixing case, the crime branch had found that there were phone calls between Bindu Dara Singh and Gurunath Meiyappan, the son-in-law of former BCCI chairman, N Srinivasan. Roy took a call to summon Meiyappan despite pressure from influential people and placed him under arrest.

Chennai Super Kings disowned Meiyappan, but he and Raj Kundra (Rajasthan Royals owner) were banned for life from cricket, by the high-powered Justice (retd) Lodha committee.

When Roy was the DCP of South Mumbai, he had been a thin and lanky man, aloof from the public and considered a snob by some. When he took over as the joint CP, crime, he had developed an interest in building his physique. Over the next few months, people noticed how he built up his physique, which seemed to match his gruff voice. He also turned into an artful public speaker who would throw in anecdotes and quotes to liven things up during press conferences.

His skill sets had also been buffed up and it was under his supervision that the Economic Offences Wing investigated and blew the lid on the National Spot Exchange Limited scam.

In many of his postings such as joint CP-crime and later as anti-terror squad (ATS) chief, Roy had succeeded Rakesh Maria. For other police officers, those were big shoes to fill because Maria seemed to be a successful leader. His colleagues believe Roy outmatched Maria on many an occasion.

An observer says that Maria had set up many of the crack teams in both the crime branch and the ATS. When Roy took over these, he did not have to build from scratch and was able to lead an effective team. For example, now Inspector General of prisons (Maharashtra), Rajvardhan Sinha, was the additional commissioner of the Economic Offences Wing, when it cracked the NSEL scam. In 2013, he determined that around Rs 5,600 crore had gone missing and suspected that most of it had been laundered into real estate.

"He backed all the investigators, was interested in results and did not back down from high-profile arrests. During interrogations, he was always in the office, no matter how late it was," says an inspector who worked with the crime branch while Roy led it.

Roy had a tough time dealing with reporters during the murder investigation of crime reporter, Jyotirmoy Dey. Others found it difficult to speculate on the reason as to why the scribe was killed. Theories were thrown around about crooked cops and a Dawood Ibrahim-sponsored hit. When Roy turned up with his chargesheet, reports and columns criticised him for it, some even blaming another journalist. But, as the prosecution unfolded in court, it changed the perception for Roy was able to make his chargesheet stick with evidence and the final verdict convicted gangster Chhota Rajan.

There was also murmur of a controversy while he was the commissioner of Nasik, but these were not proved and remain unsubstantiated.


Updated Date: May 12, 2018 20:58 PM

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