Mumbai, Sep 1: Pradeep Sharma, the dismissed encounter specialist was the Mumbai Police Encounter Squad's most notorious officer. Sharma hails from a small village in Maharashtra's Dhulia. After graduation he moved to Mumbai and wrote the MPSC exams to join the Mumbai police as a sub-inspector.
His first assignment was at the Mumbai Mahim police station. After two years, he was transferred to the special branch, then in Juhu. In 1991, Sharma came in contact with professor Arun Singh of Jhunjhunwala College in Ghatkopar, who had links with the drug mafia and was the brother of former Chhota Rajan gangster O P Singh. Arun Singh was shot dead by the Ashwin Naik gang. Soon, O P Singh, who was Sharma's informant, took over his brother's drug business.
Pradeep Sharma grew close to the Rajan gang in 1992, when underworld activities were at their peak. In 1996, he was transferred to Chandan chowky (also known as 'extortion chowky'), which was under the jurisdiction of then DCP Satyapal Singh. It was here that Sharma and his team, including sub-inspector Daya Nayak, allegedly kidnapped scrap dealer Tariq Nabi and extorted Rs 2 lakh from him. Both Sharma and Nayak were accused in the case.
The killing of O P Singh changed the equations. Sharma allegedly shifted his loyalty to Dawood aide Chhota Shakeel through the latter's brother-in-law, Arife Aboobakar.
It was when he was posted as the senior inspector in the Andheri Crime Intelligence Unit he made his mark by killing dreaded ganster Vinod Matkar. Later, he eliminated several prominent gangsters, including Parvez Siddiqui, Rafiq Dabbawala, Sadik Kalia and three LeT men. If reports are to be believed till date he has gunned down 112 criminals in different encounters.
In 2004, when Sharma took charge of the Kandivli unit of the crime branch, there were several allegations about his settling extortion threats received by businessmen and using threats to resolve land disputes. Soon, then police commissioner M N Singh disbanded Sharma's cell.
Trouble started for Pradeep Sharma when the probe was ordered into the custodial death of Kwaja Yunus. The CID filed a report that he should be transferred out of the city as he was hampering the probe.
Sharma was shifted to Amravati on a CID report. But he went on leave on medical grounds. In 2006, he was posted at the DN Nagar police station, where allegations of Sharma helping the real estate mafia in land-grabbing cases cropped up. He was transferred to the control room in 2007. Ex-IPS officer Y P Singh said, "It's a correct order. When it's reasonably well-known that a person has clandestine links with the underworld, it's not practical to conduct an inquiry." Sharma is the sixth officer to be dismissed in the last five years. The other policemen include Aslam Momin, who was dismissed for his alleged nexus with Chhota Shakeel. Milan Koyal (crime branch) was axed on similar grounds.
Pradeep Sharma comes from a family that hails from Agra, Uttar Pradesh. His father has been the principal of a Hindi-medium school in Dhulia in Maharashtra.
Sharma joined the police force as sub-inspector in 1983. The 1983 batch of Nashik Police Academy is famous for 'Encounter Specialists'. Some of the Mumbai police force's most 'Encounter Specialists' like Praful Bhosale, Shivaji Kolekar, Vinayak Savde, Vijay Salaskar, Ravindra Angre, the late Raju Pillai, Ashok Borkar and Aslam Momin all were in this batch. IPS officer Arvind Inamdar, reputed to be a no-nonsense official who resigned a year before his retirement, used to teach this batch at the Nashik Police Academy.