Roughly a year ago

Four people took off in a helicopter from the Mahalakshmi Racecourse helipad: Sathe, Hasmukh, a bookie named Mahesh Bhor and Sathe’s girlfriend, Nina Dias. They were headed towards Daman. Even though they had reached the helipad earlier, Kuber’s helicopter was given priority and allowed to leave before theirs. This wasn’t surprising given his status and wealth.

Mumbai looked different if you saw it from a helicopter and not an aircraft. With its skyscrapers, Nariman Point and BKC, the city looked like India’s Manhattan. Dharavi, the world’s biggest slum; and Marine Drive, one of the world’s most beautiful seafronts; looked nothing like what you see when you are at eye level.

Of course, the different perspective was because a helicopter flies much lower in the sky, allowing you to recognise a lot of landmarks if you are familiar with the city. The moment their helicopter took off, the four of them found themselves over Kuberia. Mesmerised, Hasmukh said, “Kuber’s building looks more majestic from the top, isn’t it? I had only seen it from the ground before this.”

“You know, if Kuber needs to go somewhere, he comes to the helipad of the racecourse first and then takes the helicopter to an airport or his factory,” Sathe said.

“It takes him 30 minutes to get to the Mahalakshmi helipad. Don’t these trips translate into losses for him?” Hasmukh asked.

“He earns about five lakh rupees per minute, which means five crores in 30 minutes. In one year, that amounts to 550 crores,’ Nina Dias said. She was very sharp when it came to money matters, which Sathe appreciated.

“If you go by Hollywood movies, the rich have a helipad on their roof itself. Kuber should also do the same. In two years, he will save about 1,100 crores,” said Hasmukh.

“I will ask Kuber to appoint Hasmukh as his financial adviser,” quipped Mahesh Bhor. He had been silent all this while. This statement from him made the others laugh. “But won’t he know this bit about the helipad already?”

“He has been trying to get permission to construct a helipad on his terrace, but it has been denied so far. I think he will get it soon though,” said Sathe and looked down. He closed his eyes and his thoughts began to drift.

Present day

API Sathe was rudely jolted out of his power nap. He had just fallen asleep after completing a 20-hour shift. Sub-Inspector Haji did not speak. He simply turned on the television. Old highlights of a Sachin Tendulkar match were playing on Star Sports. Haji quickly changed the channel to the news. Amidst big banners of breaking news, Sanjay Trivedi was reporting live – the NIA had supposedly jumped into the case lock, stock, and barrel and begun a parallel investigation.

Sathe was shocked. Who all were going to take a bite out of his pie? First, it was the ATS, and now the NIA! “The NIA, so suddenly? Why and how? The state government did not give the NIA permission. Commissioner Sir had told me that the state government did not want to involve the NIA,” he said to no one in particular. His half-asleep mind had barely conjured these questions when Trivedi offered answers from the television.

“A raid was conducted in a terrorist’s cell at the Tihar Jail. Although he has not been directly linked to the Kuberia case, the Delhi Police sent a copy of their report to the NIA. Subsequently, the NIA began a primary investigation. Even though the Opposition’s demand for the NIA to handle the case was denied by the state government, there is another provision of law which allows the NIA to conduct a parallel investigation without seeking the state government’s permission. In the Kuberia case, in addition to the existing provisions of the Indian Penal Code, Section Four of the Explosive Substances Act is also applicable. According to that, the expression “explosive substance” shall be deemed to include any materials for making any explosive substance; also any apparatus, machine, implement or material used, or intended to be used, or adapted for causing, or aiding in causing, any explosion in or with any explosive substance. Wherever this act applies, the NIA can investigate without seeking anyone’s permission.”

The anchor was not well versed in the nitty-gritty pertaining to the laws. Unable to think of a question immediately, she asked Sanjay Trivedi: “Tell us, how will this impact the case and the politics of the state?”

Trivedi was quick to respond. “Please note that three agencies are working on the case now: Mumbai’s CIU, the Maharashtra unit of the ATS and the Centre’s NIA. Besides this, the car with the explosives was reported stolen at the Vikhroli police station a few days ago. This is going to become a race more than an investigation. Each agency will want to prove that it is better. Of course, the good thing is that if one agency oversees a crucial detail, the other two will catch it.”

Trivedi wasn’t done. He continued. “And as far as politics is concerned, only yesterday the opposition leader and former chief minister, Jitendra Nagpure, disclosed some crucial information. He also requested an NIA inquiry, a plea that was rejected by the state government. But now there is no stopping the NIA. It will be interesting to see who solves this case first.”

Excerpted with permission from CIU: Criminals in Uniform, Sanjay Singh and Rakesh Trivedi, translated from the Hindi by Sneha Bawari Makharia, HarperCollins.